South Korea (), officially the Republic of Korea (Hangul: ; Hanja: ; Daehan Minguk , “The Republic of Great Han”; ROK), and commonly referred to as Korea, is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the Kingdom of Goryeo, also spelled as Koryŏ. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. Roughly half of the country’s 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents. Korea was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period and its civilization began with the founding of Gojoseon. After the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in 668, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under dynasties lasting for centuries in which its trade, culture, literature, science and technology flourished. In 1910 it was annexed by the Japanese Empire, after whose surrender in 1945, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in August 1948. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government of Korea, a communist regime was soon set up in the North that invaded the South in 1950, leading to the Korean War that ended de facto in 1953, with peace and prosperity settling-in thereafter. Between 1962 and 1994, South Korea’s tiger economy grew at an average of 10% annually, fueled by annual export growth of 20%, in a period called the Miracle on the Han River that rapidly and successfully transformed it into a high-income advanced economy and the world’s 11th largest economy by 1995. Today, South Korea is the world’s seventh largest importer and eighth largest exporter, ranking as the eighth largest country in international trade, a regional power with the world’s 10th largest defence budget and member of the G-20 and OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. Since the first free election in 1987, South Koreans have enjoyed high civil liberties and a vibrant democracy ranked second in Asia on the Democracy Index. Its pop culture has considerable influence in Asia and expanding globally in a process called the Korean Wave. South Korea is East Asia’s highest ranked developed country in the Human Development Index. Its citizens enjoy a very high standard of living, having Asia’s highest median per-capita income and average wage with the world’s 8th highest household income. Globally, it ranks highly in education, quality of healthcare, ease of doing business and job security. It leads OECD countries in student skills with the highest percentage of youths holding a tertiary education degree. Ranked as the most innovative country by Bloomberg, it is the world’s most research and development intensive country, driven by high-tech chaebols such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia and LG. A world leading information society, South Korea has the world’s fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in the ICT Development Index and smartphone usage.
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