Korea, South

Flag of Korea, South

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Korea was an independent kingdom for much of the past millennium. Following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Japan occupied Korea; five years later it formally annexed the entire peninsula. 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 Yo'ng-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 Tae-chung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il.


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


total: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km

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

Geography - note:

strategic location on Korea Strait


48,846,823 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 18.9% (male 4,844,083/female 4,368,139)
15-64 years: 71.9% (male 17,886,148/female 17,250,862)
65 years and over: 9.2% (male 1,818,677/female 2,678,914) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 35.2 years
male: 34.2 years
female: 36.3 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.42% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

10 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

5.85 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 6.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.54 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.75 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.04 years
male: 73.61 years
female: 80.75 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.27 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

less than 0.1% (2003 est.)

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)


no affiliation 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%


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)

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:




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

Legal system:

combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought


19 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly or Kukhoe (299 seats - members elected for four-year terms; 243 in single-seat constituencies, 56 by proportional representation)
elections: last held 15 April 2004 (next to be held in April 2008; byelections held on 30 April 2005 and on 26 October 2005)
election results: percent of vote by party - Uri 51%, GNP 41%, DLP 3%, DP 3%, others 2%; seats by party - Uri 144, GNP 127, DP 11, DLP 9, ULD 3, independents 5
note: percent of vote is for 2004 general election; seats by party reflect results of April and October 2005 byelections involving six and four seats respectively; MDP became DP in May 2005; United Liberal Democrats (ULD) merged with GNP in February 2006. (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)

Economy - overview:

Since the early 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 through the late 1980s 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 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 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 2005, growth moderated to about 4%. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. In 2005, the government proposed labor reform legislation and a corporate pension scheme to help make the labor market more flexible, and new real estate policies to cool property speculation. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, an export surplus, and fairly equal distribution of income characterize this solid economy.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$965.3 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$801.2 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

3.9% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$20,400 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 3.7%
industry: 40.1%
services: 56.3% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

23.53 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 6.4%
industry: 26.4%
services: 67.2% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate:

3.7% (2005 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):

2.6% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

28.9% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $195 billion
expenditures: $189 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

30.1% of GDP (2005 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:

7.3% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

342.1 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

321.1 billion kWh (2004)

Oil - consumption:

2.061 million bbl/day (2004)

Oil - exports:

645,200 bbl/day (2004)

Oil - imports:

2.263 million bbl/day (2004)

Natural gas - consumption:

24.09 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

21.11 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

$14.32 billion (2005 est.)


$288.2 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

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

Exports - partners:

China 19.6%, US 17%, Japan 8.6%, Hong Kong 7.1% (2004)


$256 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

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

Imports - partners:

Japan 20.6%, China 13.2%, US 12.9%, Saudi Arabia 5.3% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$210.4 billion (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$188.4 billion (30 June 2005 est.)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $423.3 million (2004)

Currency (code):

South Korean won (KRW)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

26,595,100 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

36,586,100 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: excellent domestic and international services
domestic: NA
international: country code - 82; 10 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:

terrestrial stations 43; cable operators 59; relay cable operators 190 (2005)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

5,433,591 (2004)

Internet users:

33.9 million (2005)


108 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 70
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: 21 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 38
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 35 (2005)


537 (2005)


gas 1,433 km; refined products 827 km (2004)


total: 3,472 km
standard gauge: 3,472 km 1.435-m gauge (1,342 km electrified) (2004)


total: 97,252 km
paved: 74,641 km (including 2,778 km of expressways)
unpaved: 22,611 km (2003)


1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2006)

Merchant marine:

total: 650 ships (1000 GRT or over) 7,992,664 GRT/12,730,954 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 151, cargo 202, chemical tanker 87, container 79, liquefied gas 20, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 22, petroleum tanker 53, refrigerated cargo 18, roll on/roll off 7, specialized tanker 3, vehicle carrier 3
foreign-owned: 15 (France 12, Singapore 1, UK 2)
registered in other countries: 362 (Belize 5, Cambodia 18, China 3, Cyprus 1, Georgia 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 12, Indonesia 1, North Korea 1, Malta 5, Mongolia 1, Panama 285, Singapore 17, Thailand 1, Turkey 1, unknown 4) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Inch'on, Masan, P'ohang, Pusan, Ulsan

Military branches:

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Maritime Police (Coast Guard)

Disputes - international:

Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic maritime disputes with North Korea over the Northern Limit Line; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954