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November 2010

Korean Peninsula

Korean Peninsula

The Korean Peninsula, comprised of North and South Korea, has a land mass of 217,328 sq km, and is located in Eastern Asia. The Korean Peninsula was first populated by peoples of a Tungusic branch of the Ural-Altaic language family, who migrated from the northwestern regions of Asia. Some of these peoples also populated parts of northeast China (Manchuria). By the first century AD, the Korean Peninsula was divided into the kingdoms of Shilla, Koguryo, and Paekche.

Throughout its history, Korea has been invaded, influenced, and fought over by its larger neighbors. When Western powers focused "gunboat" diplomacy on Korea in the mid-19th century, Korea's rulers adopted a closed-door policy, earning Korea the title of "Hermit Kingdom." In 1910, Japan annexed Korea as part of the growing empire. In December 1945, a conference was convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. The Soviet-American commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly.

On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) was established in the South. On September 9, 1948, the North established the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.). North Korean forces launched a massive surprise attack and invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. Armistice negotiations began in July 1951, but hostilities continued until July 27, 1953. On that date, at Panmunjom, the North Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers, and the United Nations Command (UNC) signed an armistice agreement. Neither the United States nor South Korea is a signatory to the armistice, although both adhere to it through the UNC. No comprehensive peace agreement has replaced the 1953 armistice pact.

Climate and terrain in the peninsula is temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer, with mostly hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys and coastal plains wide in west and south. Natural resources include: coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential, zinc, magnesite, iron ore, copper, gold, pyrites, salt, and fluorspar. Natural hazards include: late spring droughts often followed by severe flooding; occasional typhoons, and low-level seismic activity common in southwest.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 11/2010; 05/2010 & 09/2010

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