South Korea is a sovereign state in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighboured by China to the west, Japan to the east, and North Korea to the north. With an estimated population of 50 million, it covers a total area 98,480 square kilometres which includes partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys. Its main exports are wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles and computers. Korea was one nation under the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910, when Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule. Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers in 1945 and three years later the country split in two, beginning decades of conflict between North and South. The current president of The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is Park Geun-hye. She is the first woman to be elected as President in South Korea.
Secret papers put heat on Patten
Compiled by PEGGY CHUNG
Former governor Chris Patten this week found himself immersed in controversy yet again.
It was announced he would face investigation by Britain's security services for revealing secret details from Foreign Office papers.
The probe centres on claims in Jonathan Dimbleby's book The Last Governor that senior British figures manipulated the results of a 1987 survey to show Hong Kong people did not want direct elections.
The accusation is that the results were massaged after a secret deal with Beijing to scupper free elections in the territory.
More than 20 people survived when a Korean Air Boeing 747 crashed on the Pacific island of Guam.
Most of the 254 passengers on board the aircraft, which had flown from Seoul, were South Korean holiday-makers.
The crash sparked protests from relatives in Seoul. About 100 people blocked an eight-lane highway in the capital.
The aircraft was on its approach to the island's airport in a downpour when it crashed into a hillside.
China gave positive signals it was willing to push the historic first round of four-party talks towards an early start to peace negotiations between North and South Korea.
Beijing officials joined counterparts from the United States, Pyongyang and Seoul at the table in New York, kick-starting the first peace talks since a 1953 armistice ended the Korean War.
The talks were expected to last at least two days and set a date for full peace talks.
For the first time since the 1989 democracy protests mushroomed from dissent on the Beijing University campus, one of its most senior professors has made a public call for sweeping political reforms.
Professor Shang Dewen - who has written 20 books in a 40-year career teaching economics at China's top university - is making public a plan for a staged transition to democracy.
'If there is no change to the political system, I fear the attempt at the 15th Party Congress will be doomed,' Professor Shang told the South China Morning Post.
He was referring to the Communist Party leadership's attempts at economic reform.
Senior judges and lawyers crammed into a courtroom to witness the selection of the first jury to hear an entire trial in Cantonese.
Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Andrew Li Kwok- nang and Chief Judge of the High Court Patrick Chan Siu- oi were among the crowd in the Court of First Instance.
A year after making history for Hong Kong, windsurfer Lee Lai-shan said her Olympic euphoria was tempered by an inability to handle the pressures of fame.
'Everybody wanted my autograph,' said the gold medallist. 'I had very little freedom. It was very difficult at the start.'