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Geopolitically, the peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the sea and by Russia, China, and Japan.

Korea has suffered from the attempts of these neighboring countries to dominate it, particularly in the twentieth century.

About three thousand islands belong to Korea, among which the Province of Cheju Island is the largest.

Korea is mountainous, and only about 20 percent of the land in the south is flat enough for farming.

Seoul, the capital, is in the northwestern part of the country on the Han River, which flows toward the Yellow Sea.

Some suggest that this regionalism dates back to Three Kingdoms of Koguryo (37 ).

In South Korea politicized regionalism has emerged between the southeastern (Kyongsang Province) and southwestern regions (Cholla Province) since the late 1960s as a result of an uneven pattern of development that benefits people in the southeast. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean peninsula, which protrudes about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) southward from the Eurasian landmass between Soviet Siberia in the northeast and Chinese Manchuria to the north.

Another notable demographic trend is the increasing ratio of the elderly: the 1997 census revealed that 6.3 percent of the total population was 65 years of age or older. Korean is considered part of the Tungusic branch of the Altaic group of the Ural-Altaic language family.

It also has a close relationship to Japanese in general structure, grammar, and vocabulary.

Commoners who did not have the time or means to master Chinese could not read or write.

Moreover, it is difficult to express spoken Korean in Chinese characters.

Seoul was first established as the walled capital of the Choson Dynasty in 1394.

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