This article needs to be updated.
- This country is a part of Altverse.
Republic of Korea
(English: Let the land be enlightened)
and largest city
|Government||Unitary parliamentary republic under a semi-presidential system|
• 2015 estimate
• 2010 census
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
• Per capita
|Currency||Korean won (₩) (KRW)|
|Time zone||UTC+9 (Korean Standard Time)|
• Summer (DST)
|Date format||yyyy년 mm월 dd일|
|This article contains Korean text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Hangul and Hanja.|
Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK) (Korean: 대한민국, RR Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia, constituting the Korean peninsula, Jeju-do Island, Socotra Rock, and the Liancourt Islands. It shares its only land borders with Manchuria and Ussuria to the north and shares overseas borders with China to the west and Japan to the east. The name "Korea" is derived from the name given to Kingdom of Goryeo, which was also spelled as Koryŏ.
Between 1910 and 1959, Korea was under direct rule by the Empire of Japan where it was a de-facto colony of the Japanese Empire. Many Koreans would be conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army and navy during Japan's various wars, especially Great War I and Great War II. Towards the end of the war, Korea was invaded by the People's Republic of China and the Manchu People's Republic as part of a final offensive against the Japanese Empire. After the war ended, Korea would be established as an independent socialist state in the form of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea between 1959 and 2000 under the Workers' Party of Korea as part of a one-party state. Korea aligned itself with the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War and would last until 2000 where the regime collapsed and the modern Korean Republic was created as part of the wider Revolutions of 2000.
Today, Korea is a developed country and ranked 15th in the Human Development Index, the highest in East Asia. Globally, it is also one of the highest ranked countries in education, quality of healthcare, ease of doing business and job security. South Korea is the world's seventh largest exporter and is a highly advanced information society with South Korea having the world's fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in the ICT Development Index and smartphone penetration. It is a member of the League of Nations, OECD, the Trans-Pacific Allied Community, APEC, and the East Asia Summit.
The name Korea derives from the name for the Korean kingdom of Goryeo which in turn, was named for the ancient state of Gorguyeo. Persian merchants who traveled to the Korean peninsula called the country by the name Koryŏ (Goryeo; 고려). The first instance of the spelling "Korea" appeared in the writings of Hendrick Hamel, a member of the Dutch East India Company in the late 17th century. The term "Corea" was also a common spelling but fell out of practice following standardization of the word "Korea" in the 19th century. The spelling "Corea" is still in use in other languages such as Spanish.
Following the fall of Goryeo in 1392, Korea was known as Joseon before the Joseon Dynasty decided to change the name to Daehan Jeguk (대한제국) in 1897. Despite this, the word "Joseon" was still used by the majority of the Korean population to refer the country as a whole. After Korea fell to Japan, the terms Han and Joseon were used interchangeably.
The earliest known pottery dates around 8000 BC and a complex socio-political society known as the Mumun first came to light in the years 1500–300 BC. Rice cultivating agriculture began and chiefdoms were established. Extended internal conflict and the introduction of bronze and iron metalwork brought an end to this society around 300 BC. Several kingdoms including Gojoseon and Jin formed by the turn of the 2nd century BC. Gosejeon held control over the northern Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria before collapsing in 108 BC giving rise to the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea age.
Three Kingdoms period
During the Proto-Three Kingdoms period, various states formed following Gojoseon's fall including Buyeo, Okjeo, and Dongye. By its end, the kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje arose, thus starting the Three Kingdoms era. Gorguyeo was by far the most powerful of these three kingdoms. At its height in 476 AD, it included much of the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Founded by Jumong, Gorguyeo witnessed its peak under King Gwanggaeto the Great who destroyed the Manchu and other Korean states. While Gorguyeo successfully repelled Chinese invasions during the Goguryeo-Sui War and Goguryeo–Tang War, Gorguyeo collapsed in 668 following conquest by allied Silla-Tang forces.
Baekje was instrumental in introducing Chinese characters and Buddhism to the Korean peninsula. Although it held control over much of the western Korean peninsula, by 660, it was conquered by the Silla and Tang Dynasty.
Silla, was formed through the unification of six different chiefdoms from the Jinhan confederacy in 57 BC. Becoming a sea power, by the 2nd century, Silla had become a powerful military state and under the leadership of Muyeol of Silla, conquered the states of Baekje and Gorguyeo with the aid of Tang forces.
United Silla and Goryeo
After the Silla-Tang War, Silla was united and the kingdom entered into a golden age of culture and religion. The arts and religious expressions of Buddhism flourished with various temples commissioned by the state. Silla finally came to an end following decades of political turmoil and King Gyeongsun's surrender to Goryeo.
From 932 AD to 1392, the kingdom of Goryeo prospered over the Korean peninsula. Laws were codified, a proper civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism continued to spread throughout the region. The invention of a printing press and publication of the Tripitaka Koreana were a testament to Goryeo's cultural achievements. In 1231, the Mongols began an invasion campaign into Korea that ended with Goryeo's entry to the Mongol Empire as a tributary state. After the Mongol-Chinese Yuan dynasty loss political power, King Gongmin took advantage of these changes and reformed Goryeo's government. He removed pro-Mongol officials and brokered peace between conflicting Buddhist and Confucian scholars. In 1392, Taejo of Joseon led a coup against the Goryeo and established the Joseon Dynasty.
In 1392, general Yi Seong-gye (Taejo) established the Joseon dynasty and centered the government around a Confucian-based philosophy. Taejo moved the capital of Korea to Hanyang (modern-day Seoul) and adopted Neo-Confucianism as the official religion. He and his descendants, King Taejong and King Sejong the Great implemented widespread administrative, social, and economic reforms alongside, consolidating power for the royal family. His grandson, Sejong the Great, is known for his invention of the modern Korean Hangul alphabet.
Joseon suffered from political strife, civil unrest, and a Japanese invasion but survived under the leadership of Admiral Yi Sun-sin who introduced the turtle ship. Together with the Ming Chinese, the Joseon drove the Japanese away from the peninsula. A few years later, Joseon was once again under the threat of foreigners, this time from the Manchu who invaded twice. After repelling both invasions and experiencing a period of political instability, Joseon achieved peace for over 200 years. Under the rule of King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo, Joseon experienced a cultural renaissance.
As the dynasty's years waned, it found itself more and more dependent upon the Chinese before it resorted to an isolationist policy, earning it the name "Hermit Kingdom". Fearful of Western imperialism, it nonetheless, succumbed to open trading. Several foreign intrusions from the Sinmiyangyo to the Britannian occupation of the Geomun Island became more frequent as Western nations and Japan forced Korea to open its borders. The Japanese continued to apply pressure on Joseon as evident through the Gapsin coup attempt and interference with Korean-Chinese diplomacy. In 1876, Japan successfully challenged the Chinese Qing Empire Sino-Japanese War and murdered Korean empress Myeongseong to demonstrate its determination to exert control over Korea.
Korea under Japanese rule
With China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War and signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, Korea's link with China was severed. In an attempt to modernize and establish itself a strong military state, Joseon was reformed itself as the Korean Empire and King Gojong became known as Emperor Gojong. After the Russo-Japanese War, Japan declared Korea a protectorate on November 17, 1905 before formally annexing it into its empire five years later through the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty. In both cases, neither act received the expressive approval of Emperor Gojong.
The Japanese government attempted to repress Korean culture and language, forcing Koreans to adopt Japanese customs and names. At the same time, the Japanese established extensive transportation and communication networks throughout Korea in attempt to modernize it.
Following the death of Emperor Gojong, rumors spread that he was poisoned and these news led to independence demonstrations known as the March 1st Movement. The movement was quashed and over 7,000 Koreans were killed by Japanese soldiers and law enforcement. In Shanghai, China, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established in response to the March 1st Movement and the Japanese reaction. Continued protests led to stringent, tighter military rule and during World War II, Japan sought to eliminate the national identity of the Koreans. The teaching of Korean language and history was banned, compulsory attendance to Shinto religious ceremonies were enforced, and Korean names were changed to Japanese ones. During the war, thousands were conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army or forced into labor camps while many Korean women (as much as 200,000) were forced to become "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers.
Continued repression forced some Koreans to flee to China, the United States, or Sierra. In Manchuria, Koreans organized into resistance groups known as the Dongnipgun (Liberation Army) and would lead skirmishes along the Sino-Korean border.
The revival of the Christian religion in Korea paired with the growing popularity of Korean nationalism heightened the sense of national consciousness among the Korean nation. Japanese rule over Korea came to an end following the former's defeat in World War II. With the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, Korea regained its independence and the Great Korean Empire was proclaimed with the re-installation of the House of Yi.
Under the premiership of the first leader, Syngman Rhee, the Korean Empire experienced massive land reforms where large landowners were forced to divide their lands to other Koreans. Rhee's government was autocratic and corrupt, and he led persecution against political dissidents, including those part of the Worker's Party of Korea.
Korea's existence was challenged in 1950 when the self-declared Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Manchuria invaded Korea in the First Manchu-Korean War. Seoul was quickly captured, and the Korean communist rebels established a government in Pyongyang. Eventually, a LN-led coalition forces comprised primarily of Americans and Britannians landed into the Manchu provinces of Jilin and Liaodong. This advance prompted China to enter, where it pushed Korean and allied forces back the 38th parallel. Fighting continued around Pyongyang until July 1953 when Korea and Manchuria signed an armistice and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was dissolved.
Following his successful order to assassinate Kim Il-Sung, the party leader, Rhee was ousted by his military under the leadership of Park Chung-hee who promised to restore order and remove the cronyism inside the Korean structure. With the approval of Emperor Yi Un, his economic policies led to Korea's rapid industrialization known as the Miracle on the Han River.
Although Park's policies greatly radicalized the Korean market (he oversaw the construction of a national highway system, subway system, and promoted a export-driven economy), he concentrated more power to himself and declared himself Premier for Life in 1972. He also rewrote the constitution, dramatically granting him even more power as ruler and rendering the Emperor as nothing more than a figurehead. Park, a military strongman, grew to become increasingly autocratic and repressive in his rule. Tightening national security, he ordered compulsory 2 year military service for all able-bodied Korean male citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 and formed the National Intelligence Service to survey citizens and crush dissidence. In addition, he unified the military, establishing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and awarded friends and family distinguished military posts.
Surviving an initial assassination attempt by a Korean communist sympathizer, Park was eventually assassinated by a Manchu-Korean spy, thus triggering the Second Manchu-Korean War as the Manchus and Korean communists attempted one last invasion in northern Korea before being crushed by swift military action by the Korean military government. Park was succeeded by Choi Kyu-hah as acting premier whose administration was displaced by Major General Chun Doo-hwan in a coup in December 1979.
Chun forced the Cabinet to extend martial law across the entire nation, including Jeju-do, forcing universities to close, prohibiting political activities, and limiting freedom of press and speech. University students and labor unions were Chun's primary opponents, and continued to hold massive protests in response to Chun's authoritarian rule. In the city of Gwangju, the opposition movement was particularly prevalent, much so that it prompted Chun to authorize lethal military force against the protesters, an incident that would later be come to known as 5-18 or the Gwangju massacre. Although there were communist elements to the rebellion, most of the protesters were in support for reform within the current Korean government structure, first through the removal of Chun and the military's rule over the government. Chun's forces beat, injured, and killed up to 3,000 Gwangju citizens.
Following the incident, Chun was indirectly elected Premier and implemented his National Premiership Plan upon taking office. Dedicated towards economic growth, Chun oversaw tight monetary regulations and kept interest rates low to keep prices stable. All across Korea, the economy began to flourish as the electronics and automobile industries emerged. Korea opened up to foreign investment and began exporting more in response to the opened markets. Chun's government also worked to improve relations with Korea's former adversary, Japan, as well as China and the Soviet Union. Most notably, Chun continued strengthening Korea's relationship with the United States and Britannia, which both provided great military assistance during both Manchu-Korean Wars.
As Chun gained power through a military coup and many of his promises for democratic change were never fulfilled, the Korean public grew wary of Chun's policies and desired change. In the 1958 National Diet elections, opposition parties gained more seats than the national party, a sign of public desire for change. In January 1987, Seoul National University student and protester Park Jong-chul was tortured to death during a police interrogation. The June that year, the Catholic Priests Association for Justice revealed the incident, which was met with public outrage that surmounted into the June Democracy Movement.
Elections were held and Roh Tae-woo, the president of Chun's party, the Democratic Justice Party narrowly won the office of the premiership. in 1988 Conceding to public demands, Roh restored civil rights and allowed direct elections. A national referendum open to the public approved of a new constitution. Although Roh was part of Chun's leadership, Roh won due to the lack of unity from his opponents. Keeping in line with his constituents' wishes, Roh sought to eliminate the Korean authoritarian past by revising laws, lifting trade restrictions, expanding free speech and press, and granting autonomy to universities. A little after Roh's inauguration, the 1988 Seoul Olympics took place, greatly boosting Korea's standing in the international community and its own foreign policy. Through Nordpolitik, Roh established permanent relations with the Soviet Union, China, and other communist nations.
In the 1992 elections, Kim Young-sam, was elected, becoming the first civilian premier in nearly 30 years. Seen a reformist, Kim promised to usher in a "New Korea" which would remove the remnants of the authoritarian past and punish former officials on charges of corruption and bribery. Kim's ambitious anti-corruption plan indicted many former officials including Roh Tae-woo and Park Chung-hee who were both sent to prison. Reforming the chaebols, Kim nonetheless found himself falling out of public favor after Kia Motors crashed and triggered the 1997 Asian financial crisis during the last year of his five-year term.
Kim Dae-jung succeeded Kim Young-sam in February 1998 and worked towards veering Korea out of the financial trouble it had fallen into. With an aggressive strategy for foreign investment coupled with cooperation with the industrial sector and a national gold-collecting campaign, Korea's economy managed to recuperate and recover within a relatively short time. Under Kim Dae-jung, the chaebols underwent reconstruction, education and welfare reform was introduced, and government support for telecommunications and information increased dramatically.
In 2003, Roh Moo-hyun assumed premiership and tried approaching economics through gradualist policies. Promising a participatory democracy, Roh's policies were not appealing and by the end of his first year, his approval ratings were already dropping. Roh pursued a rigorous plan to dismantle Korean regionalism and empowering a unified civilian population. Despite his efforts, the economy continued to lag and in 2004, Roh was impeached on bribery and corruption charges. He was later reinstated Premier by the Constitutional Court the May that year. Following reinstatement, Roh attempted to improve the economy and his relationship with fellow colleagues and the public. He successfully fostered a free trade agreement with the United States and Sierra but these successes were overshadowed by foreign and domestic creditors' loss of faith in the Korean economy over the controversial purchase and sale of the Korean Exchange Bank by the Lone Star Fund. Leaving office in 2008 with low approval ratings, Roh committed suicide a year later after renewed charges of corruption against him and his family were made.
Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated in February 2008 and was dedicated towards revitalizing the Korean economy, reaffirming foreign relations, and protecting domestic issues. Initially, the Lee premiership was rocked with controversies and scandals including the mad cow disease paranoia that ensued following Lee's agreement to lift import bans on American beef products. Lee also had to face the economic downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis, a problem he steered Korea out of with administrative and industrial reforms and reorganizing his cabinet. Following the reforms, the economy recovered quickly and Lee focused on strengthening existing ties with Korea's allies, most notably those in the Trans-Pacific Allied Community and with China.
In 2013, Park Geun-hye became the first female premier of Korea and the first head of state in Northeast Asia. The daughter of former premier Park Chung-hee, her familial connection to the ex-dictator was a source of controversy. The most conservative of the 2012 elections, Park worked towards people-centered policies, job creation, and economic revival. In addition, Park pursued an agenda to eliminate the "Four Major Social Evils" (4대 사회악: «4-dae sahweak») which includes sexual, domestic, and school violence, and unsafe food. Under Park, Korea has increased dialogue with its partners and extended meaningful cooperation with states including Russia and China. She has also cooperated with the international community in combating terrorism, a rigorous one in response to the June 6 attacks in Sierra.
The Great Korean Empire comprises the entirety of the Korean Peninsula and includes the Jejudo, Socotra Rock, and the Liancourt Islands (Dokdo). The peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east. The southern tip of the peninsula faces the Korea Strait and East China Sea. To the northwest, the Amnok River (Yalu River) separates Korea from Manchuria while the Duman River (Tumen River) separates it from Russia.
The southern and western regions of the peninsula features pronounced plains while the eastern and northern regions are much more mountainous. Over 70 percent of Korea is covered by mountains with small dipped plains in between major mountain ranges. The highest mountains including Baekdu Mountain (the tallest), lies in the north at 2,744 m (9,003 ft).
With much of the mountains to the east, most rivers in Korea flow westward, with two exceptions being Nakdong River (Nakdonggang) and Seomjin River (Seomjingang) which both flow southward instead. Major rivers include the Chongchon River (Chongchongang), the Taedong River (Taedonggang), the Han River (Hangang), the Geum River (Geumgang), and the Yeongsan River (Yeongsangang), all of which have contributed greatly towards Korea's agricultural development and wet-rice cultivation through the flood plains formed.
Korean lands to the south of the 38th parallel north is not arable which much of the lowlands being concentrated in the west and southeast. To the north, the terrain is much more mountainous which features many hills and mountains separated by large valleys. The peninsula features numerous mountain ranges that criss-cross and overlap the land. Like in the south, much of the low-lying plains in the northern region is situated in the coastal west and along the coastlines of the east. These plains are primarily the result of mountain erosion. The coastlines of the western side of the Korean Peninsula have well-developed rias that create calm seas. Prominent mountain ranges include the Hamgyong Range and Rangrim Mountains which dominate the north and northeastern region of Korea.
Unlike its neighbors, Japan and Manchuria, which are susceptible to earthquakes, Korea has been geologically stable for decades with no active volcanoes. Baekdu Mountain however, last erupted in 1903 while historic records suggest that Mount Halla was once particularly active during the Goryeo Dynasty.
The northern and southern regions of Korea have somewhat different climates. In the north, the climate is humid continental (Dwb on the Köppen climate classification) with warm or hot and humid summers and cold, dry winters. There are four distinct seasons throughout Korea although the northern part of Korea is generally cooler than the south and experiences harsher winters. In the south, the climate is much more temperate with long, cold, dry winters and short, wet summers. Much of Korea experiences brief, intensive monsoon rain in the summer which is known as changma and is affected year-round by recurring climatic patterns. Typhoons may occur, with one to three forming per year but Korea in general, is less vulnerable to typhoons than Japan, China, or Lan Na. They usually arrive towards the end of summer and may cause flooding and landslides. As much as half of Korea's precipitation comes during this small monsoon period with winters rarely having any at all. By January, all of Korea with the exception of Jeju Island is subject to below freezing temperatures. About every eight years, Korea goes through a drought, where it is most prevalent in the southwestern region.
Like its neighbor Japan, Korea is one of the world's most ethnically homogeneous nations with more than 99% of the population being ethnically Korean. A source of ethno-national pride, Koreans have referred to themselves as the Dan-il minjog gug ga (단일 민족 국 가), or "the single race society". There are small Chinese communities situated mostly in Seoul, Manchus along the Manchu-Korean border, and few ethnic Japanese dispersed throughout the country. In addition, there are migrant workers from Central Asia (prominently Uzbekistan and Mongolia) and mail-order brides from Lan Na, South Vietnam, and Thailand known as Joseonjok.
In 2010, the Korean Population and Housing Census counted 76,197,044 people in Korea including both citizens and foreign-born permanent residents. Citizenship and nationality is determined through jus sanguinis. Generally, under Korean law, any person of ethnic Korean descent regardless of place of birth or nationality is eligible for citizenship so long as one or both of their parents are or were Korean citizens themselves. Dual citizenship is limited, having only been allowed since 2011, and generally permitted to those part of the Korean diaspora.
LanguageKorean (Hangugeo; 한국어) which is also Korea's official language with over 99% of Koreans being fluent in the language and 100% having literacy for Hangul (한글)–the official script for Korean. Hanja (한자; 韓國語의 漢字), the historic Chinese-based script, has fallen out of popular use but continues to be taught for academic and legal purposes (although this practice also in decline). Among younger Koreans, practical competency of Hanja characters has declined massively, and the tradition of using Hanja characters for names have also been fading in favor of purely Hangul-based names. The official regulatory body of the Korean language in Korea and abroad is the Imperial Institute of the Korean Language which governs the proper and correct usage of the Korean language and writing.
Alongside the nation's ethnic homogeneity, the Korean language and its alphabet, Hangul, is a great source of pride and sense of national unity among Koreans. A language isolate, modern Korean has evolved ultimately from Proto-Korean which may in itself, have been part of the hypothetical Altaic family.
As with most languages, Korean has several dialects with the Seoul dialect accepted as Standard Korean. Other regional dialects include Hamgyŏng (northeast Korea), P'yŏngan (northwestern Korea), Central (Seoul and central Korea), Yeongdong (coastal east), Gyeongsang (southeastern), Jeolla (southwestern), and Jeju (Jeju Province).
Historically, Mahayana Buddhism and Korean shamanism were the prevailing religious traditions in Korea. The former introduced into Korea in 372 AD by Chinese missionaries, it became Korea's state religion from the Three Kingdoms Period to Goryeo before its suppression and replacement by Neo-Confucianism under the Joseon Dynasty. Today, Korean Buddhists constitute 23% of the population.
Christianity has had a presence in Korea since the dawn of the 17th century but would not gain prominence in number and influence until after the Empire was reestablished after World War II. Today, it is Korea's largest religion. The Protestant branch of Christianity is the largest in Korea with 35% of the population as a self-identified member of a Protestant church or denomination. The Presbyterian denominations are the largest Protestant churches in Korea (comprising up to half of all Korean Protestants), followed by Evangelicalism, and the Baptist tradition. Other notable churches in Korea include Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists. The next largest branch of Christianity represented is Catholicism, constituting 15% of the population.
The overwhelming remainder of Korean are nonreligious or expressed no religious preference. Other religions including Islam, Canaanism, Jeungsanism, Cheondoism, and the Unificationists are also practiced.
The Korean constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and there has been no state religion since Japanese imperial rule when Shintoism was enforced in Korea as the official religion. Attempts to make Buddhism or Christianity as the official state religion have occurred in the post-imperial age, but most efforts received little support.
Government and politics
|Great Korean Empire|
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Korea features a constitutional monarchy with the Emperor as its head of state and the Premier as the head of government. The Emperor's power is very limited and as the ceremonial figurehead, his role is primarily to embody the "living Korean nation". The Premier as well as other members of the National Diet hold the majority of power while sovereignty rests within the Korean people.
The National Diet, seated in Seoul, is Korea's legislature and is responsible for propagating and revising law. A bicameral house, the Diet consists of the Senate (42 senators; 2 elected from each province) and the General Assembly (300 members apportioned by population). Currently, the National Diet is dominated by the conservative Saenuri Party (Grand National Party) and the social democratic Workers' Party of Korea. The National Diet cannot be dissolved by the Premier or the Emperor and is electoral terms are constitutionally fixed.
The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Korea which is the highest court in the nation but only has appellate jurisdiction over appeals cases pertaining to general and criminal law. The Constitutional Court of Korea has original jurisdiction surrounding any cases that involve constitutionality and has additional powers on deciding cases regarding administrative law.
Korea is divided into 21 provinces (do, 도/道), 3 special autonomous provinces (teukbyeol jachido, 특별자치도/特別自治道), 7 metropolitan areas (gwangyeoksi, 광역시/廣域市), and 1 special city (teukbyeolsi, 특별시/特別市). All of the provinces and provincial-equivalents are further divided into subentities including cities (si, 시/市), counties (gun, 군/郡), districts (gu, 구/區), towns (eup, 읍/邑), townships (myeon, 면/面), neighborhoods (dong, 동/洞) and villages (ri, 리/里).
Each province is headed by an elected governor (or a mayor in the case of the gwangyeoski-level regions and Seoul) who leads and enforces the national and local law in their province. As Korea is a unitary state, the provinces may only exercise laws designated by the federal government and may be reorganized or dissolved per the discretion of the National Diet.
In recent years, there has been a growing call by the public for federalism and "inherent" rights to be given to provinces in the Constitution. The First Constitution of Korea however, had organized the Korean provinces under a federal system. Since the Second Republic and onward, Korea has had a unitary system with scholars and lawmakers supporting it, citing the nation's strong regional differences would become amplified under a federalist system and that the costs of creating and maintaining larger provincial governments would be highly expensive. Regional differences have been partially the reason why some Koreans have supported a federalist system to ensure greater autonomy to each province.
With a history of foreign invasions, Korea is the 8th largest spender on defense in the world, allocating nearly 2% of its GDP towards national security and defense. Up until 2008, compulsory two-year military service of men between the age of 18 to 35 was enforced before service became voluntary under a new law passed by the National Diet allowing conscription over during times of war. As of 2015, there are 350,000 active troops and 2.5 million reserve troops. The Korean Imperial Forces is composed of five branches: the Imperial Army, the Imperial Navy, the Imperial Air Force, the Imperial Marines, and the Imperial Coast Guard.
The Imperial Army is in possession of 3,000 tanks including the K1A1 and K2 Black Panther. The army's artillery system consists of K55 and K9 Thunder howtizers, 800 UAVs and helicopters, all part to aid in reconnaissance, logistics, and support.
Crime and law enforcement
Public holidays and celebrations
Christmas is considered to be Korea's biggest religious holiday. Local churches get involved in decorating city halls with nativities scenes and lights.
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|China • West Sea||Korea Strait
Japan (Taiwan Prefecture) • Tondo
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