South Korea (listen), officially the Republic of Korea (Hangul: 대한민국; hanja: 大韓民國; RR: Daehanminguk, listen), is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the ancient Kingdom of Goguryeo, also known as Koryŏ. Highly urbanized at 92%, Koreans lead a distinctive urban lifestyle with half of them living in the Seoul Capital Area, the world's second largest city with over 25 million residents and a leading global city with the fourth largest economy, rated in 2016 as the world's most livable megacity and safest city to live in. Highly mountainous, Korea is a popular winter sport destination in Asia, hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The earliest Korean pottery dates to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms flourishing at 1st century BC. One of them, Goguryeo, ruled Northeast China, parts of Russia and Mongolia under Gwanggaeto the Great. Since their unification into Silla and Balhae in the 7th century, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under long lasting dynasties with innovations like Hangul, the unique alphabet created by Sejong the Great in 1446, enabling anyone to easily learn to read and write. Its rich and vibrant culture left 17 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the third largest in the world, along with 12 World Heritage Sites. Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910 due to its strategic and central location, after whose surrender in 1945, it was divided into North and South Korea. A North Korean invasion lead to the Korean War (1950–53). Peace has since mostly continued with the two agreeing to work peacefully for reunification and the South solidifying peace as a regional power with the world's 10th largest defence budget and strong global alliances. In 2016, Korea was rated as the world's safest country to live in, with the lowest crime rate.
Korea's tiger economy soared at an annual average of 10% for over 30 years in a period called the Miracle on the Han River, rapidly transforming it into an advanced developed country with high income equality by 1995. A long legacy of openness and focus in innovation, combined with strong work ethic, social cohesion and powerful chaebols disciplined by foreign competition, made the success possible. Today, it is the world's sixth largest exporter and seventh largest importer with the OECD's lowest unemployment level. It has Asia's most developed democracy, with fundamental rights protected by well-developed rule of law, rated best in East Asia. High civil liberties and freedom led to the rise of a globally influential pop culture such as K-pop and K-drama, a phenomenon called the Korean Wave, known for its distinctive fashionable and trendy style. Dynamic and progressive, Korea's stable and resilient growth is expected to overtake all major European nations in GDP per capita by 2030, with the world's seventh largest economy. Home of the UN Green Climate Fund and GGGI, Korea is a leader in low carbon green growth, committed to helping developing countries as a DAC member.
Korea has Asia's highest median income, average wage and low taxes, with singles earning more than any G7 nation. Leading East Asia in human development, it ranks top or near top in global measures of education, healthcare quality, ease of doing business, job security and government transparency. It leads OECD nations in student skills with the highest share of young adults graduating in tertiary education and graduates in science and engineering. Known for high quality brands like Samsung, the world's leading smartphone and TV maker, LG and Hyundai-Kia, Korea was named the world's most innovative country in the Bloomberg Innovation Index, ranking first in business R&D intensity and patents filed per GDP. A leader in next-generation technologies and infrastructure, it runs the world's most profitable manufacturing industry, dominating exports of computer memory microchips, LCD and OLED displays. It has the world's fastest Internet speed, ranking first in ICT Development, e-Government, 4G LTE coverage, IoT devices online and Internet access from smartphones.