South Korea (Korean: 한국; RR: Hanguk or literally 남한; RR: Namhan; officially the Republic of Korea 대한민국; RR: Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and sharing a land border with North Korea. The name Korea is derived from Goguryeo which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time, ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East and Inner Mongolia under Gwanggaeto the Great. Its capital, Seoul, is a major global city and half of South Korea's over 51 million people live in the Seoul Capital Area, the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world.
The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. Its first kingdom was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century BC. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea into Silla and Balhae in the late 7th century, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) and the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897). The succeeding Korean Empire was annexed into the Empire of Japan in 1910. After World War II, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S.-administered zones, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in August 1948. In 1950, a North Korean invasion began the Korean War and after its end in 1953, the country's economy began to soar, recording the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. Authoritarian rule ended in 1987 and the country is now the most advanced democracy with the highest level of press freedom in Asia. South Korea is a member of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, the G20 and the Paris Club.
Iris is a South Korean espionage television drama series broadcast by KBS in 2009. With a budget in excess of 20 billion won (17 million USD), it, along with its spin-off Athena: Goddess of War, share the record for the most expensive Korean dramas ever produced. Premiering in October 2009, the series was a critical and commercial success, with an average viewership of over 30% in addition to ranking as the top program consistently every week after its debut. The series also took home many of the highest honors at the 2009 KBS Drama Acting Awards, including Lee Byung-hun winning the top recognition, the Daesang Award. The plot revolves around two friends from the 707th Special Mission Battalion recruited into a secret South Korean black ops agency known as the National Security Service. Of the pair, recruit Kim Hyun-jun begins to uncover evidence that his foggy past may not be so irrelevant to his joining of the secret organization after all. As the two friends find their loyalties tested and forge new, unlikely alliances, the journey takes them from their home country to Hungary, Japan, and China where they find themselves at the center of an international conspiracy.
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Kim Ki-young (October 1, 1922 – February 5, 1998) was a South Korean film director, known for his intensely psychosexual and melodramatic horror films, often focusing on the psychology of their female characters. Kim was born in Seoul during the Japanese occupation, raised in Pyongyang and spent time in Japan, where he became interested in theater and cinema. In Korea after the end of World War II, he studied dentistry while becoming involved in the theater. During the Korean War, he made propaganda films for the United States Information Service. In 1955, he used discarded American equipment to produce his first two films. With the success of these two films Kim formed his own production company and produced popular melodramas for the rest of the decade. Kim Ki-young's first expression of his mature style was in his The Housemaid (1960), which featured a powerful femme fatale character. It is widely considered to be one of the best Korean films of all time. After a "Golden Age" during the 1960s, the 1970s were a low-point in the history of Korean cinema because of governmental censorship and a decrease in audience attendance. Nevertheless, working independently, Kim produced some of his most eccentric cinematic creations in this era. Films such as Insect Woman (1972) and Iodo (1977) were successful at the time and highly influential on the younger generations of South Korean filmmakers both at their time of release, and with their rediscovery years later. By the 1980s, Kim's popularity had gone into decline, and his output decreased in the second half of the decade. Neglected by the mainstream during much of the 1990s, Kim became a cult figure in South Korean film Internet forums in the early 1990s. Widespread international interest in his work was stimulated by a career retrospective at the 1997 Pusan International Film Festival. Kim's films, previously little-known or totally unknown outside South Korea, were shown and gained enthusiastic new audiences in Japan, the United States, Germany, France and elsewhere. He was preparing a come-back film when he and his wife were killed in a house fire in 1998. The Berlin International Film Festival gave Kim a posthumous retrospective in 1998, and the French Cinémathèque screened 18 of Kim's films, some newly rediscovered and restored, in 2006. Through the efforts of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), previously lost films by Kim Ki-young continue to be rediscovered and restored. Many current prominent South Korean filmmakers, including directors Im Sang-soo, Kim Ki-duk, Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, claim Kim Ki-young as an influence on their careers.
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Religion: Buddhism • Christianity
Geography: Asia • China • Japan • Russia
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