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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 17 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. President LEE Myung-bak has pursued a policy of global engagement since taking office in February 2008, highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010. Serious tensions with North Korea have punctuated inter-Korean relations in recent years, including the North's sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 and its artillery attack on South Korean soldiers and citizens in November 2010.
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: 99,720 sq km
country comparison to the world: 108
land: 96,920 sq km
water: 2,800 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
Current Weather
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
volcanism: Halla (elev. 1,950 m, 6,398 ft) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries
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
48,636,068 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.8% (male 4,278,581/female 3,887,516)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 17,897,053/female 17,196,840)
65 years and over: 10.8% (male 2,104,589/female 3,144,393) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 37.9 years
male: 36.5 years
female: 39.1 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.258% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
Birth rate:
8.72 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 215
Death rate:
6.15 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
urban population: 81% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.24 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 199
male: 4.46 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.81 years
country comparison to the world: 42
male: 75.56 years
female: 82.28 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.22 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 219
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
13,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
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: 16 years (2008)
Education expenditures:
4.2% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 100
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, Kwangju-gwangyoksi, Pusan-gwangyoksi, Soul-t'ukpyolsi (Seoul), Taegu-gwangyoksi, Taejon-gwangyoksi, Ulsan-gwangyoksi
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many 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 KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)
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 on 19 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
election results: 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; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 9 April 2008 (next to be held in April 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GNP 172, UDP 83, LFP 20, PPA 8, DLP 5, RKP 1, independents 9
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:
Democratic Party or DP [CHUNG Sye-kyun] (formerly the United Democratic Party or UDP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [KANG Ki-kap]; Grand National Party or GNP [AHN Sang-soo]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [LEE Hoi-chang]; New Progressive Party or NPP [ROH Hoe-chan]; Pro-Park Alliance or PPA [SUH Choung-won]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [SONG Yong-o]
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:
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador HAN Duck-soo
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 Sejongno, 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; the Korean national flag is called Taegukki; white is a traditional Korean color and represents peace and purity; the blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin, while the red symbolizes the opposite positive forces of the yang; each trigram (kwae) denotes one of the four universal elements, which together express the principle of movement and harmony
National anthem:
name: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
note: adopted 1948, well known by 1910; both North Korea and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics
Economy :: Korea, South
Economy - overview:
Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized 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, and currently is among the world's 20 largest economies. Initially, a system of close government and business ties, including directed credit and import restrictions, made this success possible. 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 and massive short-term foreign borrowing. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, and then recovered by 9% in 1999-2000. Korea adopted numerous economic reforms following the crisis, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Growth moderated to about 4-5% annually between 2003 and 2007. With the global economic downturn in late 2008, South Korean GDP growth slowed to 0.2% in 2009. In the third quarter of 2009, the economy began to recover, in large part due to export growth, low interest rates, and an expansionary fiscal policy, and growth exceeded 6% in 2010. The South Korean economy's long term challenges include a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$1.467 trillion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
$1.383 trillion (2009 est.)
$1.38 trillion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$986.3 billion (2010 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
6.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
0.2% (2009 est.)
2.3% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$30,200 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 45
$28,500 (2009 est.)
$28,500 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 39.4%
services: 57.6% (2008 est.)
Labor force:
24.62 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 7.3%
industry: 24.3%
services: 68.4% (2010 est.)
Unemployment rate:
3.7% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 33
3.7% (2009 est.)
Population below poverty line:
15% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 24.2% (2007)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
31.4 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 104
35.8 (2000)
Investment (gross fixed):
28.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
Public debt:
23.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
23.5% of GDP (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
2.8% (2009 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
1.25% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 133
1.75% (31 December 2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
5.65% (31 December 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
7.17% (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
$101.9 billion (31 December 2010 est)
$82.54 billion (31 December 2009 est)
Stock of broad money:
$1.346 trillion (31 December 2009)
$1.132 trillion (31 December 2008)
Stock of domestic credit:
$1.057 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
$935.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$836.5 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 17
$494.6 billion (31 December 2008)
$1.124 trillion (31 December 2007)
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:
12.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
Electricity - production:
417 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Electricity - consumption:
402 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2009)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2009)
Oil - production:
48,180 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 65
Oil - consumption:
2.185 million bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
Oil - exports:
907,100 bbl/day
country comparison to the world: 21
note: exports consist of oil derivatives (gasoline, light oil, and diesel), not crude oil (2009)
Oil - imports:
3.074 million bbl/day (2009)
country comparison to the world: 5
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
Natural gas - production:
651 million cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 66
Natural gas - consumption:
34.09 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
Natural gas - imports:
32.69 billion cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
Natural gas - proved reserves:
50 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64
Current account balance:
$36.35 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
$42.67 billion (2009 est.)
$466.3 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
$373.6 billion (2009 est.)
Exports - commodities:
semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
Exports - partners:
China 21.5%, US 10.9%, Japan 6.6%, Hong Kong 4.6% (2008)
$417.9 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
$317.5 billion (2009 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
Imports - partners:
China 17.7%, Japan 14%, US 8.9%, Saudi Arabia 7.8%, UAE 4.4%, Australia 4.1% (2008)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$274.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
$270 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Debt - external:
$370.1 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
$370.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$112.1 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 30
$110.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$115.6 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 25
$74.6 billion (30 June 2008)
Exchange rates:
South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar - 1,153.77 (2010), 1,276.93 (2009), 1,101.7 (2008), 929.2 (2007), 954.8 (2006)
Communications :: Korea, South
Telephones - main lines in use:
19.289 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 15
Telephones - mobile cellular:
47.944 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 25
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies
domestic: fixed-line and mobile-cellular services widely available with a combined telephone subscribership of roughly 140 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce
international: country code - 82; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 66
Broadcast media:
multiple national television networks with 2 of the 3 largest networks publicly operated; the largest privately-owned network, Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS), has ties with other commercial TV networks; cable and satellite TV subscription services are available; publicly-operated radio broadcast networks and a large number of privately-owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations (2008)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
291,329 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 58
Internet users:
39.4 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 11
Transportation :: Korea, South
116 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 53
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 72
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 21
1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 22 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 44
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 42 (2010)
510 (2010)
gas 1,423 km; refined products 827 km (2009)
total: 3,381 km
country comparison to the world: 51
standard gauge: 3,381 km 1.435-m gauge (1,843 km electrified) (2008)
total: 103,029 km
country comparison to the world: 41
paved: 80,642 km (includes 3,367 km of expressways)
unpaved: 22,387 km (2008)
1,608 km; (most navigable only by small craft) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 50
Merchant marine:
total: 819
country comparison to the world: 14
by type: bulk carrier 201, cargo 246, carrier 5, chemical tanker 132, container 69, liquefied gas 40, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 21, petroleum tanker 67, refrigerated cargo 15, roll on/roll off 9, vehicle carrier 9
foreign-owned: 33 (China 9, France 1, Japan 15, US 8)
registered in other countries: 438 (Cambodia 11, Ghana 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 1, Kiribati 2, Liberia 1, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 25, North Korea 1, Panama 366, Philippines 1, Russia 1, Singapore 9, Tuvalu 1, unknown 6) (2010)
Ports and terminals:
Inch'on, P'ohang, Pusan, Ulsan, Yosu
Military :: Korea, South
Military branches:
Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2009)
Military service age and obligation:
20-30 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; conscript service obligation - 21 months (Army, Marines), 23 months (Navy), 24 months (Air Force); 18-26 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; HIV-positive individuals are exempt from military service (2010)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 13,274,442
females age 16-49: 12,542,699 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 10,929,625
females age 16-49: 10,264,608 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 370,645
female: 321,765 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
2.7% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 53
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 Limit 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

Credits: CIA World Factbook

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