The Republic of Korea is a small country on the far eastern edge of Asia. It covers a total area of 99,392 square kilometers and has a population of 50 million. The capital and largest city is Seoul, with a population of 10 million. Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic activity, culture, and arts. Korea had to endure the Korean War (1950-53), but it has achieved amazing economic growth in a short period, dubbed “the Miracle on the Han River”.
Korea has four distinct seasons, with each offering unique and beautiful landscapes. In the spring, forsythia, cherry blossom, azalea and many other flowers are in full bloom; in the summer, people travel in numbers to the coasts to enjoy their vacation on the beach; in the fall, the mountains put on a fascinating coat of crimson leaves; and in the winter, the land is covered with snow. The capital of Korea is Seoul, and the government is led by Moon, Jae-In, elected in 2017. The Korean economy is driven by the manufacturing and exports including ships, automobiles, mobile phones, PCs, TVs, and other electronics to countries all around the world. Korea has enjoyed rapid economic growth thanks in large part to its export-focused strategy. Today, the nation boasts the 15th largest economy in the world. Recently, Korean dramas and movies are also widely exported thanks to the popularity of Korean pop culture. K-pop stars are also active on the world stage.
Geographically, Gyeonggi-do surrounds Seoul, the capital city of the Republic of Korea and is the center and the economic hub of the country. With two airports and two ports, it allows easy access to any city in Northeast Asia within two hours. Gyeonggi-do is where the tour in Korea begins. From prehistoric times through Baekje, Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, which had maintained the royal road through the region, Korea’s leading industries like IT, auto industry and tourism have flourished here.
(Population & Geographical Location) Gyeonggi Province consists of 31 cities and counties, spanning a total area of 10,175km squared. The province is about 17 times the size of Seoul, 15 times the size of Singapore, and 9 times the size of Hong Kong. It borders Chungcheongnam-do to the south, the West Sea to the west, and has Seoul and Incheon, in its center. As of July 2016, the population of Gyeonggi is approximately 13 million. Suwon is the most heavily populated city with 1.19 million residents, while Yangpyeong has the largest area, covering 877km squared.
(Time Zone) Korea uses Korea Standard Time (KST), which is 9 hours ahead of UTC (UTC+09). There are several other countries that have the same time zone – Russia’s Yakutsk Time (YAKT); Japan’s Japan Standard Time (JST); Indonesia’s Eastern Indonesian Time (WIT); and Timor-Leste’s East Timor Time (TLT).
(Language) Korean is the official language of Korea. It is used throughout the Korean peninsula and its adjacent islands, including Jeju. Tourist information and interpretation services are available in English, Japanese, and Chinese at major tourist attractions for international visitors.
(Climate) Located in the central region of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeonggi Province mostly has a continental climate and also a mountainous climate in the east. Winter is cold due to the seasonal wind from the northwest, whereas summer is hot with lots of precipitation. The annual average temperature is between 11-13°C, where the temperature in the mountain areas to the northeast is lower and the coastal areas to the southwest is higher. The temperature difference is greater in the inland areas than near the coast.
(National Holidays) In Korea, holidays and seasons are marked by various celebrations and customs. While Koreans use both the solar and lunar calendars, traditional holidays and seasonal events are usually celebrated based on the lunar calendar. Seollal and Chuseok are the two major holidays in Korea. On Seollal (January 1 of the lunar calendar), Koreans put on their finest clothes, bow to their elders, and visit ancestral graves. During Chuseok (August 15 of the lunar calendar), a celebration of the year’s harvest and thanksgiving, Koreans eat fresh harvested rice and songpyeon (rice cakes).
(Currency) The monetary unit used in Korea is the won (￦). Bank notes come in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 50,000 won bills and 1, 10, 50, 100, and 500 coins. The exchange rates (as of June 30, 2016) are: 1,151.00 KRW = 1 USD, 1,278.30 KRW = 1 EUR, and 1,120.63 KRW = 100 JPY.
(Tax) Korea’s tax free system can be divided into “Duty Free,” and “Tax Refund.” In duty free shops, no tax is applied to the price of items, including Individual Consumption Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT). Meanwhile, tax refund stores include tax and shoppers can apply for tax refunds at the airport for purchases of more than 30,000 won within 3 months of departure from Korea. Since January 1, 2016, immediate tax refund is offered to international travelers for convenient shopping. The prompt tax refund applies for purchases of less than 200,000 won, and is limited to a total value of 1,000,000 won per visit.
(Business Hours: Government Offices & Banks) In Korea, government offices follow the hours 9:00-18:00. Banks are open 9:00-16:00 and closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays.
(Electricity) The standard voltage is 220 volts and 60 hertz.
(Visa) All foreign nationals entering Korea are required to have a Korean visa. Korea does not offer visa on arrival except in very rare occasions, so unless you are from a country that has a visa waiver agreement with Korea, you need to obtain a proper visa in advance.
* For detailed information on visa, please visit the official website (www.visa.go.kr).
A Special Territory, Home to UNESCO World Cultural Heritages
‘Gyeonggi’ means ‘outer land of kingdom’s capital’ and is to protect the royal palace. Since 1018 (Goryeo Dynasty) when the name was first used, the province has long been specially treated as the area guarding capital of kingdom. It is why you can find Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty here. Suwon Hwaseong, the masterpiece of the Joseon Dynasty, is one of the finest Asian fortresses. It was scientifically designed based on both Asian and Western military science theories and the oriental philology of ‘fi lial piety.’ Passing through the downtown area of Suwon, the fortress is one of the popular tourist destinations; it works off the charm of Gyeonggi-do where tradition and modernity are balanced. Registered recently as a World Heritage by UNESCO, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty is attracting worldwide attention. It’s very rare in the world that a single dynasty existed for 519 years and it’s extraordinarily hard to maintain the tombs of kings and queens in that excellent state. UNESCO, impressed with their artistic and historic value, came to designate all of 40 tombs as the world heritages. 31 out of the 40 tombs lie in Gyeonggi-do. Based on this valuable cultural heritage, the province has become the center of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave.
One and Only Place on Earth; DMZ
The DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) is a natural tourist attraction. The world’s only active strip of division, DMZ has recently come to be regarded as a great ecological tourist spot with exquisite natural resources. Many people including children and world celebrities have visited the DMZ, which has been cut off from the outside world for half a century, to discover the importance of nature and to hear a true message of peace.