South Korea in brief
I spent 4 days in Seoul which is a great city in an interesting country that’s worth visiting!
And like me before most people seem to know nothing or very little about Korea.
So here’s a short summary, sorry if it’s not complete or you find something that’s wrong.
South Korea is the lower half of the Korean peninsula, around 100.000 square kilometers in size, about the size of Hungary.
It’s 70% mountainous, the average elevation is low but the hills rise up to 1000 meters, some peaks even more than 1.500 meters, the highest one at 1.950m.
The climate’s like in Great Britain with 4 distinct seasons, summer averages 26°C, winter just below freezing with plenty of snow.
Latidude is about the same as southern Spain or northern California.
OLD JOSEON: late Bronze age
THREE KINGDOM PERIOD: 1st century B.C. to araond 500 A.D., those were the Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla dynasties
UNITED SILLA: Silla absorbed the other two with help from the Chinese Tang dynasty in 660 A.D. and ruled till the 900s
JOSEON DYNASTY: 1392 – 1910 it was the nation’s longest lived, 1443 a formal treaty was signed with Japan, before that raids along the coast were common
IMJIN WAR: 1592 – 1598, the most disastrous period of history. Japanese general Hideyoshi decided to invade China and wanted to get passage through Korea.
The king refused as he had strong diplomatic relations with China so Japan attacked to teach a lesson.
Korea was nearly defenseless and troops made it to the capital in two weeks.
King Seonjo fled and the Japanese slowly retreated only after the arrival of the Chinese Ming force.
1596 the second great invasion, the Korean navy under admiral Yi Sun-shin crippled the Japanese supply lines.
In 1598 Hideyoshi died and Japan decided to end the war.
From the early 1600s trade continued between the two countries until the 1800s.
1905 Japan concluded a treaty with Korea after the Russo-Japanese war and took over internal affairs, foreign relations and external matters. They formally annexed the country 1910.
Japan ruled until 1945 with strong military force and suppression. Defeat in WWII ended Japan’s 35 year occupation.
U.S. and Soviet military governments were set up and they split the country in two, never meant to be a permanent measure. The Soviets stayed North, the U.S. South.
1948 the ‘Republic of Korea’ was officially founded with an elected president and one government for all of Korea, but North Korea set up their own government.
By mid 1949 all foreign troops were withdrawn.
KOREAN WAR: In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South. Their military was much stronger as they were Soviet trained and equipped. Seoul fell after a few days.
They were stopped in the far South by U.N. troops and those pushed North but got defeated by Chinese troops who came to the help of North Korea.
Since then peace talks never got results (2007 both countries desired a peace treaty).
At least one million Koreans died in this war and more than 60.000 U.N. soldiers.
Two million people migrated from North to South.
In the 1990s elected presidents started to get rid of corruption and the strong military influence.
Since then the democratization took several great steps and the economy pulled itself up from total collapse to one of the world’s most vigorous and also very export orientated.
SEOUL had a population around 150.000 in 1900, today it has 10 million inhabitants!
That’s one fifth of the country’s total population that lives in Seoul with a size of 605 square kilometers.
The old town was surrounded by a city wall, built 1396, many times renovated and 18,6 km long with 8 gates.
The old town was squeezed in a bowl between 4 hills, Bugak-san (342m) in the North, Inwang-san (338m) in the West, Namsan (265m) in the South and the Naksan hills in the East.