Largest conurbation Seoul
Official languages Korean
 -  Total 223,170 km2 
85,020 sq mi 
 -  Water  2.8
 -  2007 estimate 72,014,000 
 -  Density 328.48/km2 
850.7/sq mi
Currency Won
Time zone KST

Korea is a civilization and formerly unified nation currently divided into two states. Located on the Korean Peninsula, it borders China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the east by the Korea Strait.

Korea was united until 1948; at that time it was split into South Korea and North Korea. South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, is a capitalistic, democratic developed country with memberships in the United Nations, WTO, OECD and G-20 major economies, and home to such global brands as Samsung, LG Electronics, and Hyundai. North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a single-party communist state founded by Kim Il-sung and currently led by his son Kim-Jong-il, who has maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia.

Archaeological and linguistic evidence suggest the origins of the Korean people were in Altaic language-speaking migrants from south-central Siberia, who populated ancient Korea in successive waves from the Neolithic age to the Bronze Age. The adoption of the Chinese writing system in the 2nd century BC, and Buddhism in the 4th century AD, had profound effects on the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Baekje later passed on a modified version of these cultural advances to Japan.

Since the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea was ruled by a single government and maintained political and cultural independence until the 20th century, despite the Mongol invasions of the Goryeo Dynasty in the 13th century and Japanese invasions of the Joseon Dynasty in the 16th century. In 1377, Korea produced the Jikji, the world's oldest existing document printed with movable metal type. In the 15th century, the turtle ships were deployed, and King Sejong the Great promulgated the Korean alphabet Hangul.

During the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western nickname the "Hermit Kingdom". By the late 19th century, the country became the object of the colonial designs of Japan and Europe. In 1910, Korea was forcibly annexed by Japan and remained occupied until the end of World War II in August 1945.

In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender and disarming of Japanese troops in Korea; the Soviet Union accepting the surrender of Japanese weaponry north of the 38th parallel and the United States taking the surrender south of it. This minor decision by allied armies soon became the basis for the division of Korea by the two superpowers, exacerbated by their inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence. The two Cold War rivals then established governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to Korea's current division into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea.

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