About Korea Essay

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Divided politically into North and South by an artificial barrier roughly along the 38th parallel at the end of World War II, Korea has been historically and culturally a single nation. Because of its strategic loca­tion between China, Japan, and the Russian Far East, it has suffered from the aggressive inroads of its powerful neigh­bors.

The peninsular shape has also been a critical factor in its history, as it has acted historically as a bridge between Asian mainland and the maritime powers. The political division into North and South re­flects the key significance of Korea’s situation, for it has become now, as in the past, a meeting place for different and often hostile ideologies.

In 1948, the Re­public of Korea was formed in the south, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea came into existence in the north. The peninsula is still divided by a demilita­rized zone that cuts across the land in which North Korea is ruled by what may be described as one of the few remaining outposts of Communist totalitarian ideol­ogy, and South Korea by an administra­tion that owes allegiance to market econ­omy, and liberal democratic forces.

North and South Koreas are small countries—the peninsula stretches some 600 miles (970 km) in length and 125 to 200 miles (200 to 320 km) in width. It reaches to within 120 miles of the island of Honshu in Japan, separated by the Sea of Japan and approximately the same distance of the Shandong Peninsula of China off the Yellow Sea. There are about 3,500 is­lands, mainly along the southern and western coastline.

The Two Koreas: North and South:

Korea split into two countries disregarded the essential cultural and historical unity of the peninsula. The demilitarized zone originally created as a temporary zone separating the northern from the Ameri­can zone for the purpose of accepting Japanese surrender has hardened into po­litical division of the nation.

Following the division in 1945, the government of North Korea was strongly influenced by Russia and China, and established a repres­sive, highly secretive, and authoritarian regime and South Korea by an equally re­pressive anti-Communist government. The split not only ignored the basic cultural and economic interests and desire of the Korean people, it was against the logic of geography.

In 1950, North Korea sought to re­unite the country by force and invaded South Korea across the 38th parallel pre­cipitating a U.N. military response led by the United States, and the devastating Ko­rean War (1950-1953). The Red Chinese army entered the peninsula to assist the North Korean army. Eventually, the cease­fire was arranged in 1953 after a good deal of devastation of the Korean peninsula.

Geographically, there are a number of regional differences between the North and South that have created a correspond­ing interdependence. The north is far more mountainous, and contains much less ar­able land than the south. Climatically, the north is more continental. Food produc­tion is heavily concentrated in South Korea, and North Korea is food-deficit. Formerly food deficiency in north was made up by shipments of food from the south. Given the concentration of popula­tion and trade centered in south, there is need for regional interchange.

The distribution of several raw materi­als for industry also reveals regional contrasts. There is much greater concen­tration of mineral resources in the north. North Korea produces most of Korea’s bi­tuminous coal, nearly all of its iron ore, and over three-quarters of its mineral out­put.

Hydro power is also concentrated in the north, which produces twenty times as much as the south. North Korea special­izes in heavy industry and also contains Korea’s largest plants producing fertilizers. South Korea’s farms can well utilize chemical fertilizers and industrial machin­ery of the north. Thus, two Koreas are potentially interdependent.

At the end of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5), Japan occupied the country, that lasted until the Second World War (1939- 45). The Japanese during their occupation introduced changes in Korean develop­ment that had direct impact on the Japanese nation, rather than on the amelio­ration of the Koreas.

Food production was nearly doubled, but the new output went largely to Japan to feed the expanding Japa­nese population, the Korean farmer was no better off. The fishing industry was greatly expanded, but eighty percent of the catch went to Japan to feed the Japanese people there. Japan’s demands on the Ko­rean timber, added to the traditional practice of shifting cultivation in many re­gions of Korea led to widespread deforestation of Korea’s hills. That greatly worsened erosion and seriously aggravated the fuel shortage.

Meanwhile population of Korea began to increase resulting from eradication of famines with the construc­tion of an extensive transport network by the Japanese, and from the public health measures. These measures were essential to the Japanese so that they could exploit the Korean economy. The net result of such developments was a big increase in popu­lation but a corresponding deterioration of Korean standard of living. Japan also devel­oped Korea’s rich mineral wealth, most of the output went to Japan, although it did create some local manufacturing but the finished products were largely exported.

Japan had to relinquish control of Ko­rea after it surrendered to the American forces at the end of World War II. Korea at that time was drained of its economic re­sources, had no political leadership and was poorly prepared to the demanding task of establishing an independent exist­ence in the troubled postwar world.

The Japanese surrender was followed by the unfortunate division of the country into two states—a Communist-dominated north, and an anti-Communist south. This division was agreed upon by the American forces and Chinese-backed Korean army, the two sides which were controlling Ko­rea’s territory. The actual dividing line, that closely followed the 38th parallel along a demilitarized zone, dates from 1953. The direct result of the rivalry be­tween the two sides completely overlooked the Korean interests and na­tional desire for unity and independence.

The Physical Environment:

Korea is largely mountainous, and contains only small valleys and narrow coastal plains. The Taebaek-San Maek (Taebaek Moun­tains) are the largest chain that runs along the eastern coastline in a generally north- south direction, curving from northwest in North Korea to southeast in South Ko­rea. From this chain branch of several ranges, and the principal rivers have sources in it. Of the other rivers—Yalu that make boundary with China, is the most important. The highest point—Paiton—rises to 6,822 feet (1,950 meters) in the extreme north, close to China’s bor­der.

In general, the northern interior, adja­cent to China’s Manchurian region is more rugged, but most relief is between 2,000 and 5,000 feet (610-1525 meters). In the southern part of Korea, the topography is of lesser altitude. But most of the topogra­phy contains a profusion of ranges of hills in the interior, often lapped by small encir­cling alluvial plains.

Other lowlands that fringe the coastal areas are not extensive; they are narrow on the eastern side of the peninsula, and relatively broader though irregular on the west. The eastern coast is relatively straight; the western is indented, and contains many islands.

The climatic characteristics of Korea resemble those of central and northern China than of Japan. In winter it comes under the influence of a high-pressure sys­tem and drifts of cold, dry air from north and west. During fall and spring, condi­tions are tempered by the passage of cyclonic storms which bring more precipi­tation in the south than in the north.

Snow also stays on the ground longer on the ground in the north, but melts quickly in the mild temperatures of the south. The northern interior has bitterly cold winters. Only in the extreme southern fringe the mean January temperature is above freez­ing. The frost-free period lasts from 150 days in the northern interiors to 226 days in the southern parts.

Summers are hot and humid, and re­ceive a larger amount of precipitation. The annual range of temperature is much greater in the north and in the interior re­gions than in the south. The average monthly temperature in January at Seoul (South Korea) is about 23°F (-5°C) and about 78°F (25°C) in August. In Poyangyang January temperatures average 17°F (-8°C) and summer temperatures average a few degrees short of Seoul.

The annual rainfall ranges from 25 to 50 inches (625 to 1,524 mm), and occasion­ally, late summer typhoons and storms cause heavy showers along the southern coast. Precipitation varies with orographic (topographic) position. The highest amounts are in the south with nearly 60 inches in the hills in South Korea, and least in the sheltered upper Yalu Basin in North Korea (about 25 inches).

Terrain and climatic conditions favor the growth of extensive forests in Korea. Nearly three-quarters of North Korea and close to two-thirds of South Korea is forest land. The best timbers lie along the China border in North Korea which contains large strands of birch, spruce, and pine trees.

However, most of the commercial quality timber has largely been removed in the densely settled areas and coastal slopes. Forestry has considerably declined since the World War II, although recent refores­tation programs have stressed economic forestry particularly in North Korea.

Cultural Characteristics and Historical Development:

The Kore­ans share a common racial origin with peoples of North Asia and the society is homogeneous, with only small percentage (less than one percent) of foreigners, most of them of urban Chinese, located mostly in South Korea. Cultural and racial charac­teristics reflect typically Mongoloid features and vary only slightly from one region to another.

All Koreans speak the Korean language, which belongs to the Al­taic family and is related to Japanese but contains Chinese loan words. Although Koreans have borrowed cultural elements from their powerful neighbors—China and Japan—culturally, they are quite dis­tinct and have developed their own language, literature, and national mores.

There is little uniformity of religious beliefs within Korea. In a typical family in South Korea, for example, the women may follow Buddhism, while the men may ad­here to the Confucian ethical system. In North Korea nearly 68 percent of the peo­ple were listed as atheists or non-religious in 1980. In South Korea, however, major­ity of the population (52 percent) declares themselves as religious who actively partici­pate in religious functions regularly, and 48 percent as non-religious.

One-sixth of North Korea’s population practice traditional belief-systems that appear to be an amal­gam of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chondogyo (“Society of the Heavenly Way”). The latter was founded by a Con­fucian teacher in 1860, and combines elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity and even Taoism.

Basically, the way of life and value system Koreans are grounded in Confucian teachings, in­cluding ancestor worship, that is particularly strong in the rural areas. Bud­dhism is more popular with women, and old Buddhist temples are a part of the Ko­rean landscape, although less than 2 percent of the population in North Korea, and a quarter of the declared “religion- practicing” population in South Korea are adherents of Buddhism.

Christianity is new in Korea, but claims a large following, numbering 5 to 6 million of which 4 million are Protestants and has a profound effect on the modern­ization of Korean society. Shamanism—a religious belief in gods, demons, and ances­tral spirits responsive to a priest or shaman remains strong in rural areas, especially among women.

The Communist regime in North Korea has constitutionally allowed freedom of religion but does not practice it, allegedly for the fear that it will weaken the Communist party and government. After the Korean War (from 1950 and 1953), churches and Buddhist temples were confiscated and many were converted to other purposes.

North Korea: Resources and Development:

At the time of partition­ing of the peninsula in 1948, North Korea inherited a much larger share of the re­sources—80 to 90 percent of all mineral deposits on the peninsula, but it was essen­tially a peasant economy. The means of production under the Communist rule since then have been socialized, and priori­ties and emphasis in economic development set by the government.

As in other Communist countries special em­phasis was placed on capital goods rather than on consumer goods. North Korea contained a much larger territory (48,000 sq. miles as compared to less than 40,000 sq. miles of South Korea) but a much smaller population base. But it was relatively less developed economically than its southern neighbor—a contrast that intensified since the partition of the peninsula.

Of the 200 or so known minerals of economic value, iron ore, coal, tungsten, sulphur and zinc are especially plentiful in North Korea. Iron ore reserves are esti­mated at over 2 billion tons although production is less than 10 million tons an­nually. Rich deposits of coal both bituminous and anthracite also found in the southern part of the country, not far from Pyongyang.

The Japanese paid spe­cial attention to the development of the hydro power along the Yalu River and its tributaries during their occupation. Power production is therefore based primarily on hydroelectricity, but thermal electricity is becoming increasingly important because of growing demands of industrialization.

Since World War II Korea changed from an agricultural to an industrial na­tion. Mining and manufacturing together now account for nearly one-third of the la­bor force and represent an important segment of the economy. Major industrial development during and since the 1950s has been concerned with the production of iron and steel particularly of heavy metal­lurgical machinery centered at Chongju; agricultural machinery near Pyongyang; and of textiles located mostly at Pyongyang. Production of electricity, both coal-de­rived thermal and from hydro sources also increased during this period, although it has not kept pace with industry.

Agriculture makes a much smaller con­tribution to economy, although more than 40 percent of the labor force is engaged in it. Because of the chronic labor shortage agricultural productivity remains low. There has been an increase in cultivated land, and irrigation facilities, as also in the increased use of chemical fertilization and mechanization through the government programs of socialization.

The country re­mains chronically deficient in food grain production. Food grains is one of the im­portant items of imports. By 1958 all farms were incorporated into 3,000 cooperatives, controlled by management committees which establish production quotas, and prescribe type and amount of seed and fer­tilizer to be used on farms. There are also state and model farms, and livestock hus­bandry is concentrated on the state farms.

The main food-crops are grains, such as rice, corn, barley, millets and wheat. The production of grains has increased since the 1950s, but has not kept pace with the growth of population which in the mid 1990s stood at 22.5 million (in 1945 it was less than 9 million).

Sweet potatoes, soy­beans, and fruit trees are grown extensively. Industrial crops include cot­ton, tobacco, flax and rapeseed. Forestry has declined since World War II, as the ad­ministration has been paying greater attention to manufacturing, and fishing which have become greater sources of na­tional income.

Railroads are the principal means of transport, and highway transportation is relatively less important. River transport plays an important role in transporting ag­ricultural goods and minerals. Pyongyang, the capital, and a major city have a popula­tion of over 2.5 million, and connected by railroad with the Manchurian province of China and with South Korea.

In the early 1990s more than two- thirds of North Korea’s trade was conducted with the Soviet Union, and China. During the last two decades, trade has been permitted with the non-Commu­nist countries, including Japan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Australia. Imports mainly consist of ma­chinery, oil and fuel, chemical and rubber products. Major exports are minerals, ce­ment, fish products and textiles.

Economic Development in South Korea:

As compared to North Korea, natural resources in South Korea are mea­ger. Coal, iron ore, gold, lead, tungsten and zinc, comprise two-thirds of the total value of mineral resources, but in quantity not even one-tenth of the North Korean productions. Iron ore is exported to Japan, and tungsten to the United States.

Anthra­cite coal is the major exploited energy resource. Nearly three-fourths of the hy­dro power is derived from Han River, not far from Seoul. In contrast to North Ko­rea, thermal electric power is much more important than hydroelectric power. The first oil refinery started to produce petro­leum products in 1964, and power stations have since switched from coal to oil.

Relatively speaking, South Korea has a larger amount of cultivated land (nearly one-fifth of the land is under cultivation as compared to one-sixth in North Korea). It is much more peninsular and maritime in character. Though it too is largely moun­tainous but its plains are more extensive than of North Korea.

Nearly 18 percent of the labor force is engaged in agricultural activities as compared to less than one per­cent in mining and over 26 percent in manufacturing. In terms of contribution to gross domestic product agriculture ac­counts for about 9 percent of nation’s total production. Both the farm population and the proportion of national income from agriculture have been decreasing. Rice is the principal crop. Barley, wheat, soya ­beans, are the other crops that provide staple foods for many of the farmers, along with rice, rice being the commercial crop sold to the wealthy and the urban dwell­ers.

During the period of Japanese control agriculture became increasingly commer­cialized and most riverine plains were made to yield greater productions by large- scale irrigation projects, the application of commercial fertilizers, and the practice of more intensive methods of cultivation. Ex­port food production kept pace with population growth, more so in South Ko­rea, which is now self-sufficient in its food requirement, although the share of agricul­ture to nation’s domestic product proportionately has decreased.

Since partition manufacturing has be­come the most important segment of nation’s economy, producing close to 30 percent of nation’s wealth. The govern­ment stresses importance of manufacturing. In the 1960s and 1970s, the government emphasized the growth of large estab­lishments such as fertilizer plants and oil refineries by giving financial assistance; as a result small and middle industries produc­ing consumer goods did not grow much due to financial difficulties.

The trend be­gan to be reversed in the 1980s and 1990s when the administration withdrew itself of direct involvement, although heavy indus­try including metals, chemical and fertilizer industries continued to be devel­oped.

In terms of value and employment, however, textile industry has been the most important single industry. South Ko­rea has now become a major market and dominant center for consumer goods in­dustries; besides textiles, food processing has also become an important industry.

On the whole, South Korea is remark­ably well-served with transportation facilities. The Japanese had developed the ports of Inchon, Makyo and Pusan into major rice-exporting centers, with sizable shipping facilities during their occupation. These were connected with the agricul­tural hinterlands by modern highways and railroad network. In the postwar period when the country, with foreign aid, par­ticularly from the United States, started to rebuild the economy, the demand for the expansion of the transportation system be­came a necessity.

The need for further development was, in part, necessitated by a phenomenal increase in population. In 1944 South Korea had a population of about 19 million, which has grown to 47 million by 1999. The transportation sys­tem has since then, expanded considerably.

With the introduction of modern highway and air services, and with the rapid growth of population, especially of cities, urban transportation facilities have become in­creasingly congested. Since 1960 road transport has become more important, and now accounts for nearly 90 percent of pas­senger travel.

City growth has been even more rapid than the population in general. The Ko­rean War (1950-53) had a damaging effect on the Korean economy. The influx of refugees from North Korea crowded into the southern cities. South Korea has now five “millionaire” cities: Seoul, Pusan, Taegu, Inchon and Kwangju, as com­pared just one (Seoul) in 1950. Only one city in North Korea, Pyongyang, the capital, contains over a million people (2.3 million).

The South Korean cities ex­perienced phenomenal increases bolstered by a rapid industrialization and a great surge in the economy. The capital city is Seoul which, with a population of nearly 11 million, is among the most populous cities of the world. Its large hinterland en­compassing before partition the whole of Korea, its central location, west-coast ori­entation toward China and the mainland, make it an excellent capital and commer­cial center.

It is also an important industrial center and connected with Inchon, the nation’s major port on the west coast. Pusan on the east coast, with about 3.7 million people, grew especially after 1910 as the principal port for trade with Japan, and has been the chief point of entry for American aid and foreign com­merce. South Korea’s principal trading part­ners are the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.


North Korea inherited a larger resource-base and a more industrial­ized section of the peninsula at the time of partition but it pursued a rigid, inward- looking economic policy. During the last few years a substantial part of its expendi­ture was devoted to the development of nuclear technology and weapons.

Eco­nomic development in general and agricultural development in particular lagged because the emphasis was placed on the production of capital goods and heavy manufacturing items rather than on con­sumer goods and food production. The pursuance of lopsided economic policies resulted in its population facing starvation in the mid-1990s.

South Korea, on the other hand, adopted a more liberal and free-market economic system, and the re­sults have been spectacular. Its economic growth averaged between 6 and 10 percent annually for the last three decades. It is, in small measure, duplicating the Japanese role as an exporter of consumer goods in­cluding automobiles and electronic materials.

Given the complementary nature of the two Koreas’ natural resources, and the desire for a unified state by most Koreans, suggestions for the reunification of Korea have been made in recent years. A united Korea can undoubtedly expect to enjoy considerable economic prosperity, and may have no need to spend large sums of money on military forces, which both North and South Koreas are currently do­ing.

But the political designs by the rival governments to retain their distinct re­gimes offer resistance to the reunification efforts. Recent trade negotiations between the two governments have demonstrated greater promise. While the artificial divi­sion of Korea lasts, its economy and its people will suffer.

South Korea Essay

1354 Words6 Pages

South Korea

     South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, country in northeastern Asia that occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea is bounded on the north by North Korea; on the east by the Sea of
Japan; on the southeast and south by the Korea Strait, which separates it from
Japan; and on the west by the Yellow Sea. It has a total area of about 38,023 sq. mi., including numerous offshore islands in the south and west, the largest of which is Cheju (area, 1829 sq. km/706 sq. mi.). The state of South Korea was established in 1948 following the post-World War II partitioning of the peninsula between the occupying forces of the United States in the south and the…show more content…

South Korea's economy, traditionally based on agriculture, has, since the early 1960s, undergone an extraordinarily rapid industrialization; the gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by more than 9 percent yearly between the 1960s and the early 1990s. A series of five-year economic plans begun in 1962 have concentrated on the development of manufacturing, much of it oriented toward exports. Economic aid, especially from the United States and Japan, was important to the economic growth of the country, which in the span of a generation grew from one of the world's poorest to a mid-ranking industrial power. In the early 1990s estimated annual national budget figures showed revenues and expenditures balanced at $48.4 billion.


In the early 1990s the total labor force was estimated at 19.8 million.
Of this figure, some 15 percent were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 33 percent in industry; and 52 percent in services. The principal labor organization is the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, with a membership of more than 1.8 million.


Land distribution programs were carried out after World War II (1939-
1945). With 1.6 million farms, the average cultivated land area for each is 1.3 hectares (3.2 acres). Agricultural methods remain largely traditional and unmechanized. About 21 perceent of the land is arable, and nearly all of this land is under

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