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Monday, September 7, 2009


TV scenes of thousands of red-wearing fans going crazy over their national team during the 2002 FIFA World Cup is an image which has helped convince a global audience that South Korea is in fact, a fun place to go, a place with dazzling cities, friendly peopleand beautiful, mystical countryside.

Until relatively recently, Korea was an insular place, existing under dynastic rulefor centuries. However, the 35-year Japanese occupation from 1910, the split of the peninsula after WWII and the subsequent Korean War shattered all that. Difficult times have however made the Koreans a resilient lot, succeeding economically whilst still holding onto their unique traditions and fascinating culture.

Korea is littered with fortresses, temples and palaces, many of them UNESCO World Heritage sites. In addition, the peninsula it shares with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea's official name) is one of the mostmountainous regions in the world, and Korea also has a significant beach-dotted coastline.

The capital Seoul winds around the Han River, punctuated by futuristic skyscrapers in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The city is an increasingly useful Asia-Pacific stopover point, or a hub for a three-centre Korea-China-Japan cultural trip.