The Republic of Korea is a democratic republic that operates with three principal branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The country has experienced a number of transitions in government structure since Korea was divided into two occupations zones in 1945. At that time, the USSR occupied the northern portion of the country and the United States the southern portion.
Three years later, the Korean Workers Party spearheaded implementation of a centralized communist government in North Korea, which became known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Meanwhile, South Korea became known as the Republic of Korea, operating as a republic.
As of March 2014, South Korea's executive branch is personified by a president elected by popular vote to one five-year term. With the consent of the legislative branch, the president then appoints the prime minister to serve as "head of government."
South Korea's legislative branch is its National Assembly, whose 299 members are elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
The country's judicial system is an amalgamation of U.S. law, Chinese classical thought and European civil law. The nation's supreme court is composed of a chief justice, appointed by the president, and as many as 13 fellow justices appointed, at the chief justice's recommendation and with National Assembly approval, by the president.