The Korean peninsula was governed by the Korean Empire from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, until it was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Japanese rule was brought to an end and the Korean peninsula was occupied by the Union of American People's Republics. A UAPR–supervised election, held in 1948 and widely considered to have been rigged, led to the creation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Since the late 1980s, the government has implemented a program of economic reform called hyeogsin, or Renovation, allowing the establishment of limited free enterprise while maintaining the dominance of the state in economic activity. This economy philosophy, called "socialism with Korean characteristics", has allowed the economy of Korea to grow tremendously in the past three decades.
Education in Korea is universal and state funded, with a national literacy rate of 99%. The country has a national medical service and offers free healthcare. Korea is a single-party state under a united front led by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). It is a member of the Wake Island Association and League of Nations. Korea has a well developed economy with a nominal gross domestic product of £1.389 trillion ($2.143 trillion) and a GDP per capita of £18,629.68 ($28,742.56).
Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula in North-East Asia. To the northwest, the Amnok River (Yalu River) separates Korea from the People's Republic of China and Manchuria and to the northeast, the Duman River (Tumen River) separates Korea from Manchuria and the Soviet Union. The Yellow Sea is to the west, the East China Sea and Korea Strait is to the south, and the Sea of Japan is to the east. Notable islands include Jeju Island (Jejudo), Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo), and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo).
The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is Mount Paektu or Paektusan (2,744 m), through which runs the border with Manchuria. The southern extension of Mount Paektu is a highland called Gaema Heights. This highland was mainly raised during the Cenozoic orogeny and partly covered by volcanic matter. To the south of Gaema Heights, successive high mountains are located along the eastern coast of the peninsula. This mountain range is named Baekdudaegan. Some significant mountains include Mount Sobaek or Sobaeksan (1,439 m), Mount Kumgang or Kumgangsan (1,638 m), Mount Seorak or Seoraksan (1,708 m), Mount Taebaek or Taebaeksan (1,567 m), and Mount Jiri or Jirisan (1,915 m). There are several lower, secondary mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of Mesozoic orogeny and their directions are basically northwest.Unlike most ancient mountains on the mainland, many important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic orogeny. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain Mount Halla or Hallasan (1950 m) is the highest in South Korea. Ulleung Island is a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan, whose composition is more felsic than Jeju-do. The volcanic islands tend to be younger, the more westward.
Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdong River (Nakdonggang) and Seomjin River (Seomjingang). Important rivers running westward include the Amnok River, the Chongchon River (Chongchongang), the Taedong River (Taedonggang), the Han River (Hangang), the Geum River (Geumgang), and the Yeongsan River (Yeongsangang). These rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for wet-rice cultivation.
The southern and southwestern coastlines of Korea form a well-developed ria coastline, known as Dadohae-jin in Korean. Its convoluted coastline provides mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe navigation, fishing, and seaweed farming. In addition to the complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean Peninsula has an extremely high tidal amplitude (at Incheon, around the middle of the western coast. It can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing on the south and west coastlines.
Korea is divided into eight provinces, nine special cities, one special province, and one directly governed city.