Before the current division between North and South Korea, Korea was occupied by Japan from 1910 until 1945. After World War II, Japan surrendered the northern and southern halves to the occupying Soviet and U.S. forces, respectively, despite the original plan for a unified Korea. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War, which was the first major conflict of the Cold War. In 1953, after heavy losses on both sides, the countries were split along the demilitarised zone which still exists today, with no peace treaty ever signed. With 2 million soldiers stationed in the DMZ, it is the most heavily fortified border on earth. Shift plans to visit this demilitarised zone as a cultural activity during the study tour.
Since the Korean War, South Korea has developed into a technologically advanced country driven by a highly educated workforce. This workforce is also the most sleep-deprived population on earth, with the average person sleeping less than six hours per day. This probably has a relation to the fact that the average Korean drinks more than twice the amount of liquor per week than the average Russian drinks. What causes what exactly however, we will probably find out during the study tour.
As one of the four Asian Tigers, the South Korean economy grew at an annual average of 10% for over 30 years. This technological advancement means South Koreans now have access to the world’s fastest internet, have the highest smartphone ownership and rank the first in ICT development and e-government. This makes South Korea a prime candidate to visit for a study tour, and we are all very excited about going.
Seoul is the world’s fifth largest city, and with over 25 million inhabitants, roughly half the population of South Korea lives in the Seoul metropolitan area. Seoul is the home city of many large manufacturing companies, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Kia as well as twelve universities. Despite the high-rises necessary for the commercial, financial and manufacturing organisations, Seoul has a large number of historical architecture and parks. It is regarded as the city with the highest quality of life in Asia.
Busan is the second biggest city of South Korea, but with 3.5 million inhabitants, it pales in size compared to Seoul. During the aforementioned Korean War, Busan was one of only two cities not captured by North Korea and, as such, served as the temporary capital of the republic of Korea. Busan is renowned for its machinery, steel and shipbuilding. The latter means a lot, as Korea builds more ships annually than any other country on earth. Busan also has the world’s 9th busiest port, which might prove an interesting destination within the theme of our study tour.