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South Korea ([1] listen), officially the Republic of Korea (Korean: 대한민국; Hanja: 大韓民國; Daehan Minguk [2] listen), is a sovereign country located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula.[7] The name "Korea" is derived from Goryeo, a dynasty which ruled in the Middle Ages. Its neighbors are China to the west, Japan to the east, and North Korea to the north. South Korea lies in the north temperate zone with a predominantly mountainous terrain. It covers a total area of 99,392 km2 (38,375 sq mi)[8] and has a population of 50 million. The capital and largest city is Seoul, with a population of 10 million.

Archaeology indicates that the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Lower Paleolithic period (2.6 Ma–300 Ka).[9][10] Korean history begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by the legendary Dan-gun. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea under Silla AD 668, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) and Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). It was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation. An election was held in the U.S. zone in 1948 which led to the creation of the Republic of Korea. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government in Korea,[11] the Soviets set up a rival government in the North.

The Korean War began in 1950 when forces from the North invaded the South. The war lasted three years and involved the U.S., China, the Soviet Union, and many other nations. The border between the two nations remains the most heavily fortified in the world.[12] In the decades that followed, the South Korean economy grew significantly and the country was transformed into a major economy.[13] Civilian government replaced military rule in 1987. Presently, South Korea has strict gun control laws that rank it among countries with the fewest quantity of firearms per capita.

South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of seventeen administrative divisions and is a developed country with a very high standard of living. It is Asia's fourth largest economy and the world's 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy.[14] The economy is export-driven, with production focusing on electronicsautomobilesshipsmachinerypetrochemicals and robotics. South Korea is a member of the United Nations, WTO, and OECD. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit.

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