supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
(International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth) Any advertisement you view helps save the environment!  Thanks!


Countries / Regions


Viewer's Corner

Publish your story on - Personal experiences, opinions, articles, or any information related to Asia.  More Info...


Asianinfo Photo Gallery
Photos of Asia now available for purchase 

FREE Photos available!

IMG_0122 copy.JPG (69431 bytes)




Hong Kong







Korea Main Page


The People of Korea

Brief History

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Korean Peninsula was inhabited by lower Paleolithic people at least as early as 500,000 B.C. Many archaeological sites, mostly located along rivers, have been excavated. The most famous are Sokchang-ri in Ch'ung-ch'ongnam-do province and Chon-gok-ri in Kyonggi-do province. Various stone tools, including hand-axes and chopper-scrapers, have been found at these sites, leading archaeologists to believe that their inhabitants engaged in hunting and fishing. These people are thought to have dwelt in caves, as the bones of many extinct animals and relics of their daily life have been unearthed in such places. The supposed connection between these Paleolithic peoples and today's Koreans is blurred at present by the lack of sufficient archaeological excavations and anthropological evidence.

Scholars generally agree that the ancestors of today's Koreans were late-comers of the Neolithic Period. According to anthropological and linguistic studies, as well as legendary sources, Koreans trace their ethnic origins to those who lived in and around the Altaic mountains in Central Asia. Several thousand years ago, these people began to migrate eastward until they finally settled in an area that included Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula.

When these migrants entered the Korean Peninsula around the third millennium B.C., they were confronted by natives called Paleoasians, who were eventually driven into various areas outside the Korean Peninsula. The Ainu of the northern tip of Japan, the natives of Sakhalin and the Eskimos of the eastern coast of Siberia are all descendants of these Paleoasian tribes. 

Back to Top

Archaeological studies have uncovered two different types of pottery of this period, which raises the possibility that the inhabitants of the Korean Peninsula belonged to two very different cultural eras. For example, two distinctly different kinds of pottery have been discovered: the comb pattern pottery of a Neolithic Age people and the plain pottery of a Bronze Age people. The patterned pottery, believed to be the product of a food-gathering, hunting and fishing people, has been discovered near riverbanks and along the seashore, while the plain pottery, believed to have come from a food-producing people, has been unearthed mostly in the hilly regions of the country. Although these two peoples appear to have possessed different technologies, they shared the same culture, distinct from the Han Chinese.

As noted, most of the natives were subsequently driven north to Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and to the Arctic region by these newcomers, while a few were assimilated. Some of the migrants continued to move and eventually reached the southwestern shores of Japan. As a result, cultural similarities, such as belief systems (for example, shamanism, myths and customs) as well as shared physical traits among the ancient Koreans, Japanese and Siberian Eskimos still exist.

Back to Top

Agriculture was introduced during the Bronze Age, which began around the 15th century B.C. Increased food production and population growth led to social differentiation based on an unequal access to economic resources on one hand, and clan or kin group formations on the other. Tribal societies of various sizes were established on the basis of clan relations, with some established chiefdoms and mini-states competing with each other. At the same time, people continued to migrate to Japan. Possessing more advanced civilization and culture, these migrants enjoyed a ruling class status and even established their own small mini-states. The southwestern part of Japan, in particular, offered easy access to culture from the Korean Peninsula. This region provides ample archaeological evidence of significant cultural and ethnic relations with Korea. More archaeological study is required to draw an exact map showing how widely Koreans were dispersed during this period. Based on Chinese records and archaeological reports, however, it is assumed that they were living not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in the vast areas of Manchuria and the region along the lower Yellow River basin of the Shandong Peninsula in China. 

Back to Top

Cultural contact with the Chinese also was significant. Around the fourth century B.C., iron making was introduced through contacts with the Chinese. Intertribal competition as well as interethnic contact with the Chinese became more frequent. The numerous Korean mini-states and tribal groups banded together into several leading states, to resist Chinese military expansion. A strong sense of ethnic identity and cultural distinctiveness enabled them to remain ethnically and culturally different from China.

As the ancient history of Korea shows, various small states were composed of dialectal groups within the Altaic language family. During the latter half of the 7th century, these early states were unified into the Shilla Kingdom, a significant event because this political unity was to consolidate the homogeneity of the Korean people who now began to speak one language and share the same culture.

However, the northern half of the Korean Peninsula and the whole of Manchuria, which had been the territory of another state called Koguryo, came under the reign of a new state called Parhae, established by a refugee group from the defeated Koguryo. This state was highly heterogeneous both ethnically and culturally. The ruling class was composed exclusively of Koreans, while the general public was made up of various non-Korean local ethnic groups including the Manchurian Tungus. The ruling Koreans failed to incorporate the non-Koreans, and as a result, their state was challenged and gave way to the largest of the native ethnic groups. From that time onward, Manchuria was inhabited by various groups of Tungusic people.

Back to Top

While there was a considerable mixing of races among the various peoples in Manchuria, the inhabitants of the Korean Peninsula maintained their ethnic identity with only minimal mixing with external groups. Although cultural contacts were extensive between Korea and China from the early stages of their history, ethnic assimilation did not occur. Koreans were (and still are) highly conscious of ethnic differences and cultural distinctions, which meant safeguarding their ethnic identity despite relations with China and Japan. Koreans exported their own culture and transmitted Chinese culture to Japan from ancient times, but they did not attempt to engage in any ethnic mixing with the Japanese. Many ethnic groups in Manchuria lost most of their ethnic identity and were even completely assimilated with dominant groups; Koreans, however, have kept their ethnic identity and culture intact.

There are, at present, over 1 million Koreans residing in the United States; over 600,000 currently reside in Japan. Approximately half a million ethnic Koreans now live in Central Asia, while more than 2 million Koreans reside in the vast areas of Manchuria. Despite their minority status in their respective communities, however, Koreans abroad have maintained their ethnic and cultural identity, using their own language as well as maintaining their own traditional social institutions and lifestyles.

According to a 1995 Sports Indicators of Korea published by Korea Sport Science Institute, the average height of a modern Korean, ages 25-29, is 172.5 centimeters for men and 158.8 centimeters for women. In terms of height, this means that Korean males belong to the upper middle scale and Korean females to the medium scale, compared to other Asian people. Their most distinctive physical features are almond-shaped eyes, black hair and relatively high cheek bones. It may also be noted that all Korean babies are born with blue spots on the lower part of the back, which is also typical of Mongolians. 

Back to Top


The population of the Republic of Korea as of 1997 was 45.9 million. The registered density of the country is 463 persons per square kilometer. As of 1996 the population of North Korea was 22.4 million. Fast population growth was once a serious social problem in the Republic, as in most other developing nations. Due to successful family planning campaigns and changing attitudes, however, population growth has been curbed remarkably in recent years. The annual growth rate was 0.98 percent in 1997.

A notable trend in the population structure is that it is getting increasingly older. The 1997 census revealed that 6.3 percent of the total population was 65 years old or over. The number of people of productive age, 15 or above, rose from 24.7 million in 1980 to 34.7 million in 1997.

Back to Top

Information provided by the Korean Embassy


48,636,068 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.8% (male 4,278,581/female 3,887,516)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 17,897,053/female 17,196,840)
65 years and over: 10.8% (male 2,104,589/female 3,144,393) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 37.9 years
male: 36.5 years
female: 39.1 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.258% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
Birth rate:
8.72 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 215
Death rate:
6.15 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
urban population: 81% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.24 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 199
male: 4.46 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.81 years
country comparison to the world: 42
male: 75.56 years
female: 82.28 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.22 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 219
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
13,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 99.2%
female: 96.6% (2002)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 17 years
male: 18 years
female: 16 years (2008)
Education expenditures:
4.2% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 100 supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
(International Cooperation of Environmental Youth - Helping Our Polluted Earth) Any advertisement you view helps save the environment!  Thanks!


Cheap Airline Tickets

Discount Hotels

Rental Car Deals




Disclaimer: does not guarantee the complete accuracy of the information provided on this site or links.  Do your own research and get a professional's opinion before adhering to advice or information contained herein.  Use of the information contained herein provided by and any mistakes contained within are at the individual risk of the user. 

(We do not provide links to, or knowingly promote, any violent or pornographic sites.)

Suggestions  |  Organization Info  |  Become a Sponsor Privacy Statement

 Copyright 2010 - All Rights Reserved.- Copyright Policy