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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (Korean hangeul: 대한민국; Korean hanja: 大韓民國; Daehan Minguk), is a country in East Asia, surprisingly enough located on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea suffered under a series of military dictatorships for decades — the United States wanted a strongman in place to counter communism — until protests eventually forced democratization of the government. Starting in the 1970s, South Korea underwent a period of heavy industrialization, and today is a prosperous industrial nation like Japan. This period took place under the authoritarian rule of Park Chung-hee, whose propaganda dehumanized the enemy in the North. Park was assassinated in 1979; after that the military ruled the country with the initial lead strongman being Chun Doo-hwan (1979-'88), followed by the slightly less gruesome rule of Roh Tae-woo (1988-'93). During Chun's rule, dissidents were falsely accused of being pro-North Korean Communists or spies, and imprisoned and tortured. In May 1980, Chun ordered his army, led by Roh, to kill hundreds of citizens of Gwangju who were protesting against his rule. Only in 1987, after a decade of peaceful protests organized by students, intellectuals, and unions, was the first free presidential election held, but a split among the democratic opposition ensured that the Roh Tae-woo won the election with a plurality. It would not be until the election of Kim Dae-jung in 1997 that the opposition would win its first election.
South Korea has one of the largest standing armies in the world (except in rare special cases, every male citizen is subject to conscription). This measure is deemed necessary given relations with its northern neighbor (the two countries are still officially at war). Officially, the country maintains fairly friendly relations with Japan and the United States, despite numerous disputes with the former. They frequently exchange slaps to the face with North Korea.
South Korea sees the North’s perpetually "eventual" collapse with some trepidation. Sure they would like to become a unified nation again; however, they’ll be stuck with the bill and humanitarian crisis. East Germany at least had infrastructure, wasn't starving, was Eastern Europe's second largest economy, and that was expensive enough for West Germany. This is not even mentioning the task of deprogramming 25 million people who still see the Kims as gods, the possible rise of pro-Kim terrorist groups, and so on.
South Korea is known for having an extremely competitive education environment. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, students in South Korea were among the most unhappy of all students around the globe.
A plurality of South Koreans have no official religion (56.1%). The largest religion in South Korea is Christianity, with around 27.6% of the population adhering to Christianity. The second largest religion is Buddhism, with around 23% of South Koreans being Buddhists in 2005, and 15.5% in 2015. A bit less than 20% of the population adheres to Protestantism, but the religion is heavily politicized and controversial in the country.
Roughly 10% of the population is Catholic, and Pope Francis is very popular in the country.
Famous South Koreans
- It is the adoptive country of the Reverend Moon (he was born in the North)
- Footballer Ahn Jung-Hwan (안정환) scored the winning goal against Italy in the 2002 World Cup. Unfortunately, he was signed to an Italian club at the time — they fired him.
- Kim Yu-Na (김연아), a famous female ice skater.
- John Cho, a Korean-American actor. You may know him as Harold from Harold and Kumar, or as Hikaru Sulu from the 2009 Star Trek reboot.
- Rain (비), a singer, dancer, actor (in both South Korea and the US), and a well-known humanitarian. Had a dance-off with Stephen Colbert.
- BoA (권보아), a Korean singer, active in South Korea, Japan, and the US.
- Kendrick Kang-Joh "Ken" Jeong" (정강조), a Korean-American physician, comedian, and actor. He is known for his role as Ben Chang in the comedy series Community, and for his other movie roles such as Leslie Chow in The Hangover, Dr. Kuni in Knocked Up, and Ken in The Pineapple Express.
- Margaret Cho, a Korean-American comedian, fashion designer, author, recording artist, and actress. She is more widely known for her stand-up comedy where she talks about social and political problems, mostly about race and sexuality.
- Park Chan-wook (박찬욱) directed the 2003 film Oldboy.
- PSY, the guy with over 3 billion YouTube hits.
- Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations (2007-2016).
- South Koreans win mass campaign for democracy, 1986-87, Swarthmore College
- Flashback: The Kwangju massacre, BBC
- Information on South Korean Military Service, UC San Diego
- At this point it's basically primed to, simply a matter of when.
- Although this is increasingly seen as an unwanted outcome, especially among younger Koreans, for the reasons detailed above
- If this is the situation after two decades, just imagine a reunified Korea.
- Official stats from Statistics Korea, 2015.