Korea, South

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Introduction - Korea, South:


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 Japans 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 Koreas 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 Souths President KIM Dae-jung and the Norths leader KIM Jong Il.

Location - 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)

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:


49,044,790 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 18.3% (male 4,714,103/female 4,262,873)
15-64 years: 72.1% (male 18,004,719/female 17,346,594)
65 years and over: 9.6% (male 1,921,803/female 2,794,698) (2007 est.)

Median age

total: 35.8 years
male: 34.8 years
female: 36.8 years (2007 est.)

Population growth rate

0.394% (2007 est.)

Birth rate

9.93 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Death rate

5.99 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.106 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.688 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2007 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 6.05 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.43 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 77.23 years
male: 73.81 years
female: 80.93 years (2007 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.28 children born/woman (2007 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

less 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)

Government - Korea, South:

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Korea
conventional short form: South Korea
local long form: Taehan-minguk
local short form: Hanguk
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), Chungchong-bukto (North Chungchong), Chungchong-namdo (South Chungchong), Kangwon-do, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto (North Kyongsang), Kyongsang-namdo (South Kyongsang)
metropolitan cities: Inchon-gwangyoksi (Inchon), Kwangju-gwangyoksi (Kwangju), Pusan-gwangyoksi (Pusan), Soul-tukpyolsi (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 ROH Moo-hyun (since 25 February 2003)
head of government: Prime Minister HAN Duck-soo (since 2 April 2007); Deputy Prime Ministers KIM Woo-sik (since 10 February 2006); KWON O-kyu (since 18 July 2006); KIM Shin-il (since 20 September 2006)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime ministers recommendation
elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held 19 December 2002 (next to be held on 19 December 2007); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by president on prime ministers recommendation
election results: ROH Moo-hyun elected president; percent of vote - ROH Moo-hyun (MDP) 48.9%; LEE Hoi-chang (GNP) 46.6%; other 4.5%

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 15 April 2004 (next to be held in April 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party - Uri 51%, GNP 41%, DLP 3%, DP 3%, others 2%; seats by party - Uri 141, GNP 127, DP 12, DLP 9, PFP 5, independents 5
note: percent of vote is for 2004 general election; seats by party reflect results of 2005 and 2006 by-elections; MDP became DP in May 2005; United Liberal Democrats (ULD) merged with GNP in February 2006

Judicial branch

Supreme Court (justices appointed by president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Labor Party or DLP [MOON Seong-hyun]; Democratic Party or DP [PARK Sang-chun]; Grand National Party or GNP [KANG Jae-sup]; People-First Party or PFP [SHIN Kook-hwan and SIM Dae-pyung]; Uri Party [Chung Sye-kyun]

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 Alexander VERSHBOW
embassy: 32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, Unit 15550, 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 equal to the lesser economies of the EU. 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 1997-99 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Koreas 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 2006, growth moderated to about 4-5%. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, an export surplus, and fairly equal distribution of income characterize this solid economy.

Gdp purchasing power parity

$1.196 trillion (2006 est.)

Gdp official exchange rate

$897.4 billion (2006 est.)

Gdp real growth rate

4.8% (2006 est.)

Gdp per capita ppp

$24,500 (2006 est.)

Gdp composition by sector

agriculture: 3%
industry: 45%
services: 52% (2006 est.)

Labor force

23.77 million (31 December 2006 est.)

Labor force by occupation

agriculture: 6.4%
industry: 26.4%
services: 67.2% (2006 est.)

Unemployment rate

3.3% (December 2006 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

35.8 (2000)

Inflation rate consumer prices

2.2% (2006 est.)

Investment gross fixed

28.4% of GDP (2006 est.)


revenues: $200 billion
expenditures: $201 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)

Public debt

31.9% of GDP (2006 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

8% (2006 est.)

Electricity production

345.2 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity consumption

321 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity exports

0 kWh (2004)

Electricity imports

0 kWh (2004)

Oil production

7,378 bbl/day (2004)

Oil consumption

2.149 million bbl/day (2004)

Oil exports

644,100 bbl/day (2004)

Oil imports

2.83 million bbl/day (2004)

Oil proved reserves

0 bbl

Natural gas production

0 cu m (2004 est.)

Natural gas consumption

27.84 billion cu m (2004 est.)

Natural gas exports

0 cu m (2004 est.)

Natural gas imports

28.93 billion cu m (2004 est.)

Current account balance

$2 billion (2006 est.)


$326 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Exports commodities

semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals

Exports partners

China 24.7%, US 13.1%, Japan 7.5%, Hong Kong 4.2%, Taiwan 4.1% (2006)


$309.3 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)

Imports commodities

machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics

Imports partners

Japan 17.4%, China 15.4%, US 11.2%, Saudi Arabia 6.4% (2006)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$239 billion (2006 est.)

Economic aid donor

ODA, $744 million (2005)

Debt external

$249.4 billion (30 September 2006 est.)

Currency code

South Korean won (KRW)

Exchange rates

South Korean won per US dollar - 955.3 (2006), 1,024.1 (2005), 1,145.3 (2004), 1,191.6 (2003), 1,251.1 (2002)

Communications - Korea, South:

Fiscal year

calendar year

Telephones main lines in use

26.866 million (2006)

Telephones mobile cellular

40.197 million (2006)

Telephone system

general assessment: excellent domestic and international services
domestic: NA
international: country code - 82; fiber-optic submarine cables - 1 Korea-Russia-Japan, 1 Korea-Japan-Hong Kong, 3 Korea-Japan-China, 1 Korea-Japan-China-Europe, 1 Korea-Japan-China-US-Taiwan, 1 Korea-Japan-China, 1 Korea-Japan-Hong Kong-Taiwan, 1 Korea-Japan; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Pacific Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean) and 3 Inmarsat (1 Pacific Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 61, FM 150, shortwave 2 (2005)

Television broadcast stations

43 (plus 59 cable operators and 190 relay cable operators) (2005)

Internet country code


Internet hosts

5.434 million (2005)

Internet users

34.12 million (2006)

Transportation - Korea, South:


107 (2006)

Airports with paved runways

total: 69
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: 20 (2006)

Airports with unpaved runways

total: 38
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 35 (2006)


540 (2006)


gas 1,482 km; refined products 827 km (2006)


total: 3,472 km
standard gauge: 3,472 km 1.435-m gauge (1,342 km electrified) (2006)


total: 100,279 km
paved: 87,032 km (includes 3,060 km of expressways)
unpaved: 13,247 km (2004)


1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2007)

Merchant marine

total: 669 ships (1000 GRT or over) 8,634,188 GRT/13,733,624 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 157, cargo 193, chemical tanker 98, container 81, liquefied gas 22, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 24, petroleum tanker 57, refrigerated cargo 17, roll on/roll off 6, specialized tanker 3, vehicle carrier 6
foreign-owned: 22 (France 12, Japan 1, UK 2, US 7)
registered in other countries: 365 (Belize 4, Cambodia 23, China 2, Cyprus 1, Georgia 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 6, Indonesia 1, Liberia 3, Malaysia 1, Malta 6, Marshall Islands 1, Panama 291, Singapore 17, unknown 2) (2006)

Ports and terminals

Inchon, Masan, Pohang, Pusan, Ulsan

Military - Korea, South:

Military branches

Army, Navy, Republic of Korea Air Force (Han-guk Kong Goon), Marine Corps, National Maritime Police (coast guard) (2006)

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 by 6 months beginning 2014); 18 years of age for voluntary military service; some 4,000 women serve as commissioned and noncommissioned officers, approx. 2.3% of all officers; women, in service since 1950, are admitted to seven service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps (2007)

Manpower available for military service

males age 20-49: 12,483,677
females age 20-49: 12,014,462 (2005 est.)

Manpower fit for military service

males age 20-49: 10,115,817
females age 20-49: 9,721,914 (2005 est.)

Manpower reaching military service age annually

males age 18-49: 344,943
females age 20-49: 312,720 (2005 est.)

Military expenditures percent of gdp

2.7% (2006)

This page was last updated on 16 September, 2007
Source: CIA >>>

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