South Korea is a relatively small country with a landmass of 99,237sq. km. / 38,316 sq. miles, but it packs a lot into a small space! 70% of the country is covered by largely untouched forested terrain, leaving the remaining 30% for agriculture and housing. South Korea also has pristine beaches which are very popular with Koreans during the summer months.
South Korea has some of the most stunning national parks in all of Asia. Whether you want a relaxing weekend at a natural volcanic spa or a hiking trail in one of the several national parks, the Korean natural environment is simply breathtaking!
South Korea has seen a tremendous amount of growth during the last 40 years, from being one of the poorest countries in Asia, to being one of the richest today. The movement of people from the countryside into cities has seen the rapid urbanisation of available flat land. Areas such as Seoul have become ‘mega cities,’ with Seoul and the surrounding metropolis cities housing up to half the population of South Korea!
The infrastructure of South Korea is simply outstanding, with the country industrialising so quickly, successive government s have been able to build world class rail and road networks to keep pace with the rapid development. Importantly, these transport networks are not only efficient but also affordable, making them accessible to the whole nation. As a result it is extremely easy and cheap to travel around the country, either by train, bus or even plane.
South Korea also has world class medical and dental facilities which are also highly affordable. So much so, that the country has seen a huge rise in ‘medical tourism’ where tourists from surrounding countries come for treatments as well as enjoying South Korea’s unique culture. South Korea also has some of the fastest recorded broadband speeds in the world and is truly a world leader in IT and business.
South Korea has a rich history, the traditional founding date being 2333BC by the legendary Tan’gun. Koreans are immensely proud of their history and it is possible to learn about it by visiting the hundreds of museums which are located throughout the country.
Extending south from China and just north of Japan, the Korean Peninsula has long been strategically desirable to both countries. As a result, Korea has fought off invaders from Mongolia, Manchuria, China and Japan over the course of its 5,000-year history. But the most traumatic moment in Korea’s past came after a 35-year Japanese occupation that ended with the close of World War II. The Soviet Union was to oversee the northern half of the peninsula, while the U.S. oversaw the south, ostensibly until fair elections could be held. But it was not to be. The Soviets and the U.S. were unable to agree on how to reunify the country and on June 25, 1950, Soviet-backed troops from what had become known as North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. The United Nations sent troops (predominantly American soldiers) to the South’s defense, but Korea had fallen victim to the Cold War.
Although an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, it resulted in the formal division of the peninsula into North and South with a buffer, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), in between. Its name is a tragically an ironic one as the DMZ is one of the world’s most heavily guarded places. But while North Korea remains essentially sealed off to outsiders, South Korea, which makes up 45% of the peninsula, is very much a shining beacon of modern democracy.