The Korean Peninsula lies in the middle of Northeast Asia, flanked by China to its west and Japan to its east. The northern end of the peninsula is joined to the Asian Continent. The peninsula is predominantly mountainous, with flat land accounting for only 30% of the entire territory. Mountains over 1,000m above sea level make up only 15% of the mountainous areas, while mountains lower than 500m account for 65%.
The Korean Peninsula belongs to a temperate zone. There are marked changes in climate between the four distinct seasons. Under the influence of the continental climate, there is a considerable difference in temperature between summer and winter. It is hot and humid in summer, and cold and dry in winter. Over the past thirty years, the summer temperature range has averaged 20.5 - 26.1C, while the winter temperature range has averaged -2.5 - 5.7C.
Many Koreans take their summer holidays during this period. During the peak season, the number of visitors to wellknown beaches, including Haeundae in Busan, Gyeongpodae in Gangneung, and Daecheon on the West Sea, exceeds 1 million.
The written form of Korean uses Hangeul, a writing system commissioned by King Sejong (1397-1450) during the Joseon Dynasty. Koreans are very proud of this remarkable achievement, and Hangeul is a very efficient and easy script to learn and use. Hangeul is composed of fourteen consonants and ten vowels. It can express virtually all the sounds produced by nature and humans.
The national flag of Republic of Korea is composed of a red and bluetaegeuk pattern in the center and four black trigrams at eachcorner, against a white background.
The country has adopted a Presidential system in which the President is elected by the direct vote of the people for a fiveyear term. The government is composed of three independent branches: the Executive branch; the Legislative branch composed of 300 four-year term members of the National Assembly; and the Judiciary branch, which includes fourteen six-year term Supreme Court justices. There are seventeen regional local governments and 226 basic local governments. The heads of the local governments and the members of local councils are each elected for a four-year term.
Since the earliest settlements on the Korean Peninsula and in southeastern Manchuria during prehistoric times, the people of Korea have developed a distinctive culture based on their unique artistic sensibility. The geographical conditions of the peninsula provided Koreans with opportunities to receive both continental and maritime cultures and ample resources, which in turn enabled them to form unique cultures of interest to and value for the rest of humanity, both then and now.
At the present time, Korean arts and culture are attracting many enthusiasts around the world. Korea's cultural and artistic achievements through the ages are now leading many of its young talents to the world's most prestigious music and dance competitions, while its literary works are being translated into many different languages for global readers. More recently, Korean pop artists have attracted huge numbers of admirers across the world, the most spectacular success being Psy's global hit Gangnam Style.