Korea 101

We did our first class for our Hague/adoptive parent training last week, and it was incredibly informative!  It was basically a one hour overview of South Korea.

Even though SK is a US ally and we were a major player in their civil war and we have bases there that are key to our East Asia political/military strategy, I feel like all I knew about South Korea boiled down to this:

Once upon a time, Japan controlled South Korea.  Then WW2 happened.  As part of the repercussions, Japan was no longer allowed to hold South Korea. But Korea wasn’t actually sure how to govern itself either. Two dictatorships emerged – North and South.  We (the USA) supported the south.  Eventually the fighting ended, but no real solution occurred.  Fast forward a few decades, and we are left with an impoverished, cruel communist dictatorship in the North and a democratic, successful country in the south.  

So the bare bones basics, and that’s about it.  Obviously, I want to know so much more about my child’s home country.  I genuinely enjoyed the presentation we watched and took extensive notes.  This may feel like a book report, but here are a few things that I found particularly interesting:

DISCLAIMER:  This is what the presentation said, but info could easily be outdated by today.

Korea as a whole has been invaded 900 times.

Korea is derived from the original kingdom name “Goryeo”.  Originally, it was spelled Corea, but Japan changed it to Korea so that Japan would also come first in alphabetical situations.  In addition to the name change, Japan also ended the Korea royal line, forced Koreans to take Japanese names, and pretty much aimed to kill Korean-specific culture entirely.  There is still a very tense relationship between Koreans and Japan.

Korea is the size of the state of Indiana, but with a population of 50 million people.  Approximately 70% of the land there is mountainous, so most of the population lives on the other 30%.  Half of the population lives in the Seoul metro alone, making it the second densest city in the world and the #1 densest city in Asia.

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) was established in August 1948.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was established in September 1948.  In December of the same year, the United Nations said the Republic of Korea was the only legitimate government of Korea.  This resulted in the Korean War, which claimed the highest number of civilian casualties compared to military casualties in modern history.

South Korea was left in third world poverty after the war.  In less than 60 years, it has grown to rank as the 13th largest GDP in the world with a huge focus in IT.

There are an estimated 2 million Koreans living in the United States, and there have been 161,000 intercountry adoption from South Korea since 1955.

I mentioned the 100-day Korean celebration in a previous post, but our class elaborated on that a bit.  Koreans consider the 100-day party to be essentially the first birthday.  They count from the time of conception, meaning 9 months of pregnancy + 100 days = birthday party!   However, in Korean culture, everyone becomes a year older on New Year’s Day, not on their actual day of birth.


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