Country Information Database


Korea, South Country Information

Korea, South
Flag of Korea, South
Map of Korea, South
Introduction Korea, South
An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Dae-jung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il. In October 2007, a second North-South summit took place between the South's President ROH Moo-hyun and the North Korean leader.
Geography Korea, South
Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Geographic coordinates:
37 00 N, 127 30 E
Map references:
total: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Indiana
Land boundaries:
total: 238 km
border countries: North Korea 238 km
2,413 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: not specified
temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
Natural resources:
coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
Land use:
arable land: 16.58%
permanent crops: 2.01%
other: 81.41% (2005)
Irrigated land:
8,780 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
69.7 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 18.59 cu km/yr (36%/16%/48%)
per capita: 389 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
Environment - current issues:
air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
strategic location on Korea Strait
People Korea, South
48,379,392 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 17.4% (male 4,431,315/female 4,004,810)
15-64 years: 72% (male 17,760,975/female 17,095,436)
65 years and over: 10.5% (male 2,030,931/female 3,055,925) (2008 est.)
Median age:
total: 36.7 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 37.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.269% (2008 est.)
Birth rate:
9.09 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
5.73 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.11 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.29 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.52 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.64 years
male: 75.34 years
female: 82.17 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.2 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
8,300 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 99.2%
female: 96.6% (2002)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 17 years
male: 18 years
female: 15 years (2007)
Education expenditures:
4.6% of GDP (2004)
Government Korea, South
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Korea
conventional short form: South Korea
local long form: Taehan-min'guk
local short form: Han'guk
abbreviation: ROK
Government type:
name: Seoul
geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural)
provinces: Cheju-do, Cholla-bukto (North Cholla), Cholla-namdo (South Cholla), Ch'ungch'ong-bukto (North Ch'ungch'ong), Ch'ungch'ong-namdo (South Ch'ungch'ong), Kangwon-do, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto (North Kyongsang), Kyongsang-namdo (South Kyongsang)
metropolitan cities: Inch'on-gwangyoksi (Inch'on), Kwangju-gwangyoksi (Kwangju), Pusan-gwangyoksi (Pusan), Soul-t'ukpyolsi (Seoul), Taegu-gwangyoksi (Taegu), Taejon-gwangyoksi (Taejon), Ulsan-gwangyoksi (Ulsan)
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten nine times; current constitution approved on 29 October 1987
Legal system:
combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
19 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister HAN Seung-soo (since 29 February 2008)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held 19 December 2007 (next to be held on in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by president on prime minister's recommendation
election results: ROH Moo-hyun elected president on 19 December 2002; percent of vote - ROH Moo-hyun (MDP) 48.9%; LEE Hoi-chang (GNP) 46.6%; others 4.5%; LEE Myung-bak elected president on 19 December 2007; percent of vote - LEE Myung-bak (GNP) 48.7%; CHUNG Dong-young (UNDP) 26.1%); LEE Hoi-chang (independent) 15.1; others 10.1%
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Kukhoe (299 seats; 243 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 56 elected by proportional representation; to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 9 April 2008 (next to be held in April 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GNP 153, UDP 81, LFP 18, Pro-Park Alliance 14, DLP 5, CKP 3, independents 25
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by the president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)
Political parties and leaders:
Creative Korea Party or CKP [MOON Kook-hyun]; Democratic Labor Party or DLP [CHUN Young-se]; Grand National Party or GNP [PARK Hee-tae]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [LEE Hoi-chang]; Democratic Party or DP [CHUNG Sye-kyun] (formerly the United Democratic Party or UDP)
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Federation of Korean Industries; Federation of Korean Trade Unions; Korean Confederation of Trade Unions; Korean National Council of Churches; Korean Traders Association; Korean Veterans' Association; National Council of Labor Unions; National Democratic Alliance of Korea; National Federation of Farmers' Associations; National Federation of Student Associations
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador LEE Tae-sik
chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 387-0205
consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Kathleen STEPHENS
embassy: 32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 738-8845
Flag description:
white with a red (top) and blue yin-yang symbol in the center; there is a different black trigram from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes) in each corner of the white field
Economy Korea, South
Economy - overview:
Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is roughly the same as that of Greece and Spain. This success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, then recovered by 9.5% in 1999 and 8.5% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms had stalled. Led by consumer spending and exports, growth in 2002 was an impressive 7%, despite anemic global growth. Between 2003 and 2007, growth moderated to about 4-5% annually. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, and an export surplus in 2007 characterize this solid economy, but inflation and unemployment are increasing in the face of rising oil prices.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$1.206 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$957.1 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
5% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$25,000 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 39.4%
services: 57.6% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
24.22 million (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 7.5%
industry: 17.3%
services: 75.2% (2007)
Unemployment rate:
3.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line:
15% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25% (2005 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
35.1 (2006)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.5% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
28.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
revenues: $262.2 billion
expenditures: $225.8 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt:
28.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products:
rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish
electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
Industrial production growth rate:
5.5% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production:
403.2 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 62.4%
hydro: 0.8%
nuclear: 36.6%
other: 0.2% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
368.6 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production:
17,050 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption:
2.13 million bbl/day (2006)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:
2.41 million bbl/day (2006)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
1.66 billion cu m (2006)
Natural gas - consumption:
34.2 billion cu m (2006)
Natural gas - exports:
2,450 cu m (2006)
Natural gas - imports:
35.86 billion cu m (2006)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance:
$5.954 billion (2007 est.)
$379 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities:
semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
Exports - partners:
China 26.2%, US 12.4%, Japan 6.9%, Taiwan 4.1% (2007)
$349.6 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
Imports - partners:
China 16.9%, Japan 16.3%, US 10.4%, Saudi Arabia 6.2% (2007)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $455.3 million (2006)
Economic aid - recipient:
$68.07 million (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$262.2 billion (31 December 2007)
Debt - external:
$220.1 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$119.6 billion (2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$82.1 billion (2006)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.051 trillion (2007)
Currency (code):
South Korean won (KRW)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
South Korean won per US dollar - 929.2 (2007), 954.8 (2006), 1,024.1 (2005), 1,145.3 (2004), 1,191.6 (2003)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Korea, South
Telephones - main lines in use:
23.905 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
43.5 million (2007)
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international services
domestic: NA
international: country code - 82; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 6 (3 Intelsat - 1 Pacific Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean, 3 Inmarsat - 1 Pacific Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 61, FM 150, shortwave 2 (2005)
47.5 million (2000)
Television broadcast stations:
43 (plus 59 cable operators and 190 relay cable operators) (2005)
15.9 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
315,537 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
11 (2000)
Internet users:
35.59 million (2007)
Transportation Korea, South
105 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 68
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 21
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 19 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 37
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 34 (2007)
536 (2007)
gas 1,482 km; refined products 827 km (2007)
total: 3,472 km
standard gauge: 3,472 km 1.435-m gauge (1,342 km electrified) (2006)
total: 102,293 km
paved: 78,581 km (includes 3,060 km of expressways)
unpaved: 23,712 km (2005)
1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2007)
Merchant marine:
total: 804 ships (1000 GRT or over) 12,632,019 GRT/20,764,152 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 204, cargo 218, carrier 2, chemical tanker 131, container 83, liquefied gas 32, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 24, petroleum tanker 65, refrigerated cargo 19, roll on/roll off 9, specialized tanker 5, vehicle carrier 7
foreign-owned: 15 (Japan 3, Norway 4, UK 1, US 7)
registered in other countries: 384 (Belize 1, Cambodia 23, China 1, Cyprus 2, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 5, Kiribati 2, Liberia 3, Malta 6, Marshall Islands 10, Netherlands 1, Panama 311, Russia 1, Singapore 8, Tuvalu 1, unknown 3) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Inch'on, P'ohang, Pusan, Ulsan
Military Korea, South
Military branches:
Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2008)
Military service age and obligation:
20-30 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 24-28 months, depending on the military branch involved (to be reduced to 18 months beginning 2016); 18 years of age for voluntary military service; women, in service since 1950, admitted to 7 service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps; some 4,000 women serve as commissioned and noncommissioned officers, approx. 2.3% of all officers (2007)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 13,691,809
females age 16-49: 13,029,859 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 11,282,699
females age 16-49: 10,683,668 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 371,108
female: 325,408 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures:
2.7% of GDP (2006)
Transnational Issues Korea, South
Disputes - international:
Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limiting Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954

This page was last updated on 2 October, 2008 Access Time: Wed, 06 Dec 2023 23:26:59 +0000