Language and Letters
Most linguists place Korean in the Altaic language family, though some consider it to be a language isolate, meaning that it cannot be simply related with any other language. 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. Every year, UNESCO presents the King Sejong Literacy Prize to people who have made a distinguished contribution to the elimination of illiteracy. The inclusion of ‘King Sejong’ in the name of the prize may be said to be tacit recognition of his greatest accomplishment, the creation of Hangeul, which is easy to learn and use.
National Flag (Taegeukgi)
The national flag of South Korea is composed of a red and blue taegeuk pattern in the center and four black trigrams at each corner, against a white background. Taegeukgi was first used as the national flag when the Korean Empire was proclaimed in 1897. The pattern of today’s taegeukgi has changed somewhat from the flag used at that time.
The white background symbolizes brightness, purity, and peace-loving ethnic characteristics. The taegeuk pattern symbolizes yin and yang (i.e. the idea that all things in the universe are created and evolve through the interaction of yin and yang).
National Anthem (Aegukga)
The country’s national anthem was composed in 1935 by Mr. Ahn Eak-tai, who added a melody to lyrics written in the early 1900s. It was officially adopted with the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea in August 1948. Prior to that, the country sang the same lyrics to the melody of Auld Lang Syne as the national anthem.
National Flower (Mugunghwa)
The Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) is thought to be deeply associated with what are regarded as the most typical Korean characteristics: a sincere heart, inwardness, and tenacity. Around the late 9th century, the Chinese referred to Korea as “the country of mugunghwa.” The Korean word mugunghwa literally means a “never-withering flower.” The country’s national anthem includes the line: “Three thousand ri of splendid rivers and mountains covered with mugunghwa blossoms.” The emblem of the government and the National Assembly contains the shape of a mugunghwa.
The country has adopted a Presidential system in which the President is elected by the direct vote of the people for a five-year term. President Moon Jae-in was sworn in as the 19th president of South Korea on May 10, 2017.
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.
In 1948, the two Koreas established their respective governments. Defined as two different countries under international law, they joined the United Nations simultaneously in September 1991. The Constitution of South Korea, however, regards North Korea as part of the Republic of Korea.
Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'