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Area: 329,247 sq km
Population: 88.1 million
Languages: Vietnamese, French, English, Chinese, ethnic langu
Religions: Buddhism, Catholic, Muslim, Christian, Hoa Hoa, Ca
GNI per capita: US$890
Currency: VND (dong) ;1USD = 16,548 dong

The history of Vietnam has been a turbulent one. In the 19th century, the country was absorbed, along with Cambodia and Laos, into French Indochina. Communist-led forces within Vietnam battled for independence after World War II, prompting the 1954 Geneva Agreement that divided the nation into North and South. The 20-year Vietnam War followed. The Vietnamese Communist Party has been in power since the reunification of the country in 1975. 

The country, which is shaped much like the letter S, is covered with rugged land and dense forests. River deltas contain rich soils that are highly suitable for crop cultivation, especially rice. The tropical climate includes a monsoon season that extends from May to October, as well as frequent typhoons that cause flooding in the northern coastal areas.

More than half of the nation’s population lives in poverty, with an unemployment rate hovering around 25 percent. The Vietnamese government is attempting to alleviate problems that have resulted from rapid population growth and over-crowded cities by resettling millions of urban residents into the sparsely inhabited mountains and upland plateaus. 

Today, Vietnam is undergoing tremendous political and social changes. The recent pursuit of an export-oriented economy has reopened the country to the outside world, bringing both new opportunities and new challenges for families.