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Area and geographical features

The Korean peninsula borders China and the Soviet Union to the north and extends southwards to within 70 miles of Japan. The peninsula is c 600 miles in length and is flanked by the East Sea and the Yellow Sea. To the south it is separated from Japan by the Korean Straits.

The Republic of Korea occupies the southern half of the peninsula, below the 38th parallel. It is separated from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea by a 4 km wide Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). With an area of 38,279 square miles.

About two thirds of the terrain is mountainous and rugged, especially in the east. The principal lowland areas are located in the west. Only about 20% of the land is arable - concentrated in the river valleys and coastal river basins. Soils are generally poor and there are few mineral resources.

The population of South Korea is nearly 47 million (1999), with a growth rate of around 1% per year. The population is heavily urbanized: 70% of the total live in the cities. Over 10m people live in Seoul alone, making it one of the ten largest cities in the world.

The Korean people form a homogenous ethnic group of Mongolian descent that is quite distinct from the Chinese and the Japanese. Koreans are highly nationalistic and intensely proud of their language, cuisine, dress, architectural and artistic heritage, all of which differ from those of China and Japan.

Major business cities and towns
Seoul 10,321,000
Pusan 3,843,000
Taegu 2,504,000
Inchon 2,498,000
Kwangju 1,342,000
Taejon 1,346,000
Ulsan 1,018,000

The capital city is Seoul, which is the political, cultural, commercial, financial, and educational center of Korea. Pusan is the second largest city and her principal port. Taegu houses many of the textile based industries while Taejon is the major industrial R&D research center. Inchon is a major port city and Korea's huge new international airport.

There are four distinct seasons of which Spring and Autumn are the most pleasant. Summer is hot and humid with July and August the hottest and also the wettest months (half of the annual rainfall occurs at this time). Winter is cold with moderate snowfall - the coldest months being January and February.

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