Sunday, November 24, 2013

On South Korea

In case you have been in one of the many remote parts of this world lacking the amazing Internet, we have recently returned from a two week jaunt through South Korea.  In preparation for a series of posts covering our experiences there, I will be providing you with some background on South Korea.

From Wikipedia:
South Korea (About this sound listen), officially the Republic of Korea (Korean대한민국Hanja大韓民國Daehan Minguk About this sound listen), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula... It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with China to the west and Japan to the east. South Korea lies in the north temperate zone with a predominantly mountainous terrain. It comprises an estimated 50 million residents distributed over 99,392 km2(38,375 sq mi).[6] The capital and largest city is Seoul, with a population of 10 million.

File:South Korea (orthographic projection).svg
You can see South Korea here, sandwiched between Japan and China.  The latitude of Korea is approximately the same as the southern US states.  Its land area is less than half of the State of Kansas in which I currently am.

Like several countries in this region, Korea's earliest written history starts as early as 2000 BC.  It is difficult to comprehend but like China and Japan, South Korea has a extensive history and several millennium of cultural development which influences its people.  It is also hard to comprehend for Westerners, but Korea's racial diversity is nearly non-existent with most Koreans being highly homogeneous for many generations.

In addition to a long and large ancient history, the Korea of today is heavily influenced by a series of wars and occupations.  Most notably were the Korean War, which resulted in the splitting of the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel, and the occupation by the Japanese from 1910-1945.  This occupation was accompanied by extreme cultural suppression, to the point of requiring Japanese to be the official language, suppressing Korean completely. 

Suth Korea is a modern country with a high standard of living and individual income.  South Korea ranks 15th worldwide in nominal GDP according to Wikipedia.  Despite the high level of development and presence of western influences South Korea is decidedly non-western.  From where Koreans shop to how they live and eat, shows strong and somewhat striking differences to the various lifestyles we have encountered in our travels.

The next few posts will be devoted to covering the two weeks we spent roaming Korea.  Due to our exclusive use of public transit, we spent more time in the urban environments there.  This should provide a bit of a break from the often rural settings for our travels.  

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