South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK) (Korean: 대한민국, pronounced [tɛːhanminɡuk̚] ( listen)) and often referred to as Korea, is a country in East Asia, located on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. Also known as the "Land of the Morning Calm", it is neighbored by China to the west and Japan to the east, bordering North Korea to the north. Its capital is Seoul, the second largest metropolitan city in the world and a major global city. South Korea lies in a temperate climate region with a predominantly mountainous terrain. Its territory covers a total area of 100,032 square kilometers and has a population of over 48 million, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of 16 administrative divisions. Archaeological findings show that the Korean Peninsula was occupied as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. Korean history begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BCE by Dangun. Following the unification of Three Kingdoms of Korea under Silla 668 CE, Korea existed as a unified nation Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910. After liberation and division in 1948, South Korea was ruled by a series of autocratic governments until its transition to democracy in the 1980s. Following the Korean War, the South Korean economy grew significantly, transforming the country into a major global economy. This is known as the Miracle on the Han River and the country became one of the Four Asian Tigers.
South Korea is a developed country with the smallest gap between rich and poor in high-income Asian economies. It is a High-income OECD member, having the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 15th largest in the world. South Korea is the world leader in innovation among major economies and a leader in technologically advanced goods such as electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics, headed by Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia. It is a member of the United Nations, WTO, OECD and G-20 major economies. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit, and a major non-NATO ally of the United States. In the 21st century, there has been increased interest in Korean culture throughout the world, also known as the Korean Wave.