The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the eastern end of the Asian continent. It is roughly 1,000 km (621 miles) long
and 216 km (134 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Mountains cover 70% of the land mass, making Korea one of the most mountainous regions in the world. The lifting and folding of Korea's granite and limestone base has created breathtaking landscapes of scenic hills and valleys. The mountain range that stretches along the east coast drops off into the Eastern Sea, while the mountains along the southern and western coasts descend gradually to the coastal plains that produce the bulk of Korea's agricultural crops.
The peninsula is divided just slightly north of the 38th parallel by the Korea Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The democratic Republic of Korea lies south of this buffer zone, while its communist neighbor, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, lies to its north. South Korea has a population of 48.7 million(July 2009).Administratively, the Republic of Korea consists of nine provinces (do); the capital Seoul; the six metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Ulsan; and 77 cities (si) and 88 counties (gun).
The Korean flag is called Taegeukgi. The design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang forces in Asian philosophy. The circle in the center, called taeguk, is divided into two equal parts: the red top, which represents the proactive cosmic forces of the yang and the blue bottom, which represents the responsive cosmic forces of the yin.
Together, these two forces embody the concepts of continual movement, balance, and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded by a trigram in all four corners, each symbolizing one of the four universal elements: heaven( ), earth ( ), fire () and water ().
The white base of the flag symbolizes light and the purity of the Korean people.
The national flower of Korea is the mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon). Every year from July to October, a profusion of mugunghwa blossoms graces the country. Unlike most flowers, the mugunghwa is remarkably tenacious and able to withstand both blight and insects. The flower's symbolic significance stems from the Korean word mugung, meaning immortality. This word encapsulates the enduring nature of Korean culture along with the determination and perseverance of the Korean people.
Korea lies in a temperate zone and has four distinct seasons. In late March or early April, the trees burst into a leafy splendor to mark the beginning of spring. Until the end of this season, which lasts until May, you can expect mostly warm and pleasant weather. However, by June, the relatively hot and rainy summer season begins, with average temperatures rising above 20 C
(68 F). Between the end of June to mid-to-late July is Korea's monsoon season (jangma), which brings heavy, continuous rainfall. August in Korea is especially hot and humid. However, the coming of fall in late September brings continental winds
and clear, dry weather, making the fall months perhaps the most pleasant time of year. With this change in weather, the leaves start turning brilliant shades of autumn colors, and by October, the vivid golds and vibrant reds create a colorful panorama. December marks the beginning of winter-- four months of cold and dry weather with occasional snow. However, often times, there are significant temperature fluctuations, with three or four days of frigid weather followed by a few warmer days.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally protected in the Republic of Korea, which has allowed the nation to develop into a mutli-religious society. Approximately half of the population are active religious followers. Korea's traditional religions-- Shamanism, Buddhism, and Confucianism-- have all played an integral role in the country's sociocultural development, with their values deeply embedded in Korean society. Many minor religions, which combine various elements of the traditional religions, also exist. Although Christianity was not introduced to the peninsula until 1794, its membership has grown rapidly in the 20th century. Today, Christianity and Buddhism are the leading religions, with 29.2% and 22.8% of the population, respectively, as followers.