The Republic of Korea is the official name of South Korea, whereas the North Korea is called Popular and Democratic Republic of Korea.
South Korea is a republic with a presidential mode. The president of the Republic, elected for five years by the direct universal suffrage, is not re-eligible. He is assisted by a Prime Minister.
The Parliament is unicameral. The National Assembly is composed of 273 deputies elected for four years by the direct universal suffrage.
The principal parties (November 2001) are :
- the Grand National Party, left majority to the National Assembly, divided into preserving and moderated factions, which has 149 seats;
- Union of the liberals democratic (ULD) of Kim Jong-Pil who has 10 representatives;
- Millenium Democratic Party (MDP), the Party of President Kim Dae-jung, who counts 61 deputies, constant by Democratic People Party (DPP) which has 2 representatives;
- the party Uri ("Our party"), created at the end of 2003 by the partisans of the Head of the State.
From the administrative point of view, the country is divided into 9 metropolitan provinces (do ) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi ), of which the Seoul capital. South Korea counts 71 communes (si ) and 94 districts (gun ).
The 9 metropolitan provinces are as follows
The metropolitan cities are
The official language is Korean. In the corporate, one also speaks Japanese and English. French is spoken a little.
The Korean language is specific, but has similarities of syntax with Japanese and some loans to the Chinese vocabulary. Indeed, the cultural, religious (Buddhism, Confucianism) and administrative life have largely drew with the Chinese sources.
The Chinese writing (hanja) is still partially in use but the Korean alphabet (hangeul), composed of 10 vowels and 14 consonants, is easier to control.
Several currents of religious or ethical thought influence the spiritual life of the Koreans. Buddhism and Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism) are the two principal ones but the Confucianism and the shamanism (animism) also have their followers.
South Korea have a separated mode between the Church and the State ensuring a free exercise of the worships.
The density of population is one of highest in the world. The large majority of the inhabitants is concentrated in the low coastal areas of the south-east and the west of the country. The population is undoubtedly very homogeneous, downward of Mongolian tribes of Central Asia. Apart from some Chinese, the country does not count any ethnic or linguistic minority. Principal migratory flows are directed towards the United States, Canada and Australia.
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The rhythm of the seasons in South Korea is not very different from Europe one. The seasons are very contrasted with cold and dry winters and hot, wet and rainy summers. Climatic contrasts are important between the mountainous back-country, which knows low temperatures and the southernmost coast which profits from a more lenient climate.
In Seoul, the temperatures can reach extremes and vary -12°C in January with 37°C in July. The monsoon of summer (July-August) can bring torrential rains.
Capital of South Korea (10,3 million inhabitants), located upstream estuary of Han, to 60 km of the Yellow sea. It is one of the most populated cities of the world which concentrates about the quarter of the population of the country.
Economic and cultural center of South Korea, it is placed under the direct administration of the South Korean government. The economy of the city rests on the services, the trade, tourism and industry (textile, chemistry, electronics, agro-food). Heavy industries (petrochemistry, cement factory, metallurgy) were established near the littoral.
Founded at the 11th century, it became the capital of Korea under the Choson dynasty, then that of South Korea at the time of the partition of Korea in two States. Destroyed mainly during the war of Korea, it was rebuilt according to a geometrical plan and offers a very modern aspect (suspended motorways, buildings and broad avenues). Overpopulation poses serious problems of town planning and pollution. Principal curiosities are the palaces built under the Choson dynasty and some museums. Seoul is also an important university center.
Second city and principal seaport of South Korea (4,2 million inhabitants), located on the strait of Korea at the south-east of the country. Principal industries are the shipbuilding, the railway material, the iron and steel industry, the textile, the fishery products. A service of ferries ensures the connection with the Japanese port of Shimonoseki. Busan shelters several universities.
Third city of the country (2,5 million inhabitants), it is a very active commercial pole, located on Naktong. Industry rests on the textile and the agro-food one. The city have two universities.
Principal port of Seoul (2,5 million inhabitants), located at the mouth of the Han river, on the yellow sea, to 35 km of the capital.
City of the south-west of South Korea (1,3 million inhabitants), located within an agricultural and industrial area (agro-food, textile, Automobile industry). The city have one university.
Agriculture occupies 12% of the working population and contributes for 5% to the GNP of the country.
Agriculture occupies a place increasingly more marginal in the economy. The structure of the sector was modified: the size of the exploitations increased much and the products diversified (vegetables, fruits, breeding of bovines, pigs and chickens). The principal culture remains rice (12th world rank). Fishing is an important sector (9th world rank).
Energies and Industries
This sector occupies 20% of the working population and contributes for 46% to the GNP of the country.
South Korea contains few energy resources. The nuclear energy thus ensures 35% of the production of electricity.
South Korea engaged, as from the Sixties, in a fast industrialization policy which saw the development of the "chaebols", giant industrialists of the type conglomerate (Daewoo, Samsung...) to the diversified activities, strongly supported by the government and the banks. The Asian crisis of 1997 updated the weaknesses structural of the system and the government was constrained to cleanse the financial and banking sector collapsing under the bad loans bound at the height debt of certain companies.
Industry is very diversified: industry textile, chemicals and iron and steel, agro-food but especially electronic component (1st world rank), car industry (5th world rank) and shipbuilding (2nd world rank).
The services occupy 68% of the working population and contribute for 49% to the GNP of the country.
Parallel to the development of the country, the requirements in service became immense in the field of the distribution, the environment (waste and water treatment), of hotel trade etc... The sector has been liberalized gradually and opens for a few years with the foreign companies.
The principal trade partners of South Korea are the countries of Asia (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore), the United States and the European Union. France occupies the 5th place among the foreign investors and the French presence, although recent, continues to progress.
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