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East Asia/Southeast Asia :: Korea, South Print
Page last updated on November 24, 2020
  • Introduction :: Korea, South
  • Background field listing

    An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the US in 1945. After World War II, a democratic government (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 (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside ROK soldiers to defend South Korea from a DPRK invasion supported by communist China and the Soviet Union. A 1953 armistice split the Peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime, from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea in 1979.

    South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former ROK Army general ROH Tae-woo winning a close race. In 1993, KIM Young-sam (1993-98) became the first civilian president of South Korea's new democratic era. President KIM Dae-jung (1998-2003) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his contributions to South Korean democracy and his "Sunshine" policy of engagement with North Korea. President PARK Geun-hye, daughter of former ROK President PARK Chung-hee, took office in February 2013 as South Korea's first female leader. In December 2016, the National Assembly passed an impeachment motion against President PARK over her alleged involvement in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, immediately suspending her presidential authorities. The impeachment was upheld in March 2017, triggering an early presidential election in May 2017 won by MOON Jae-in. South Korea hosted the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February 2018, in which North Korea also participated. Discord with North Korea has permeated inter-Korean relations for much of the past decade, highlighted by the North's attacks on a South Korean ship and island in 2010, the exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ in 2015, and multiple nuclear and missile tests in 2016 and 2017. North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, dispatch of a senior delegation to Seoul, and three inter-Korean summits in 2018 appear to have ushered in a temporary period of respite, buoyed by the historic US-DPRK summits in 2018 and 2019.

  • Geography :: Korea, South
  • Location field listing
    Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
    Geographic coordinates field listing
    37 00 N, 127 30 E
    Map references field listing
    Area field listing
    total: 99,720 sq km
    land: 96,920 sq km
    water: 2,800 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 110
    Area - comparative field listing
    slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana
    Area comparison map: Area comparison map
    Land boundaries field listing
    total: 237 km
    border countries (1): North Korea 237 km
    Coastline field listing
    2,413 km
    Maritime claims field listing
    territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    continental shelf: not specified
    Climate field listing
    temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winters
    Terrain field listing
    mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
    Elevation field listing
    mean elevation: 282 m
    lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
    highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
    Natural resources field listing
    coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
    Land use field listing
    agricultural land: 18.1% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 15.3% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 2.2% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0.6% (2011 est.)
    forest: 63.9% (2011 est.)
    other: 18% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land field listing
    7,780 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution field listing
    with approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populated
    Natural hazards field listing

    occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest

    volcanism: Halla (1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries

    Environment - current issues field listing
    air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing; solid waste disposal; transboundary pollution
    Environment - international agreements field listing
    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 field listing
    strategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coasts
  • People and Society :: Korea, South
  • Population field listing
    51,835,110 (July 2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 28
    Nationality field listing
    noun: Korean(s)
    adjective: Korean
    Ethnic groups field listing
    Languages field listing
    Korean, English (widely taught in elementary, junior high, and high school)
    Religions field listing
    Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9% (2015 est.)

    note: many people also carry on at least some Confucian traditions and practices

    Age structure field listing
    0-14 years: 12.77% (male 3,401,815/female 3,219,589)
    15-24 years: 11.18% (male 3,030,027/female 2,764,860)
    25-54 years: 44.66% (male 12,043,626/female 11,106,927)
    55-64 years: 15.47% (male 3,927,496/female 4,089,033)
    65 years and over: 15.92% (male 3,572,855/female 4,678,882) (2020 est.)
    population pyramid: population pyramid
    Dependency ratios field listing
    total dependency ratio: 39.5
    youth dependency ratio: 17.5
    elderly dependency ratio: 22
    potential support ratio: 4.5 (2020 est.)
    Median age field listing
    total: 43.2 years
    male: 41.6 years
    female: 45 years (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 29
    Population growth rate field listing
    0.39% (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 162
    Birth rate field listing
    8.2 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 220
    Death rate field listing
    6.8 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 135
    Net migration rate field listing
    2.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 45
    Population distribution field listing
    with approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populated
    Urbanization field listing
    urban population: 81.4% of total population (2020)
    rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030: PDF
    Major urban areas - population field listing
    9.963 million SEOUL (capital), 3.465 million Busan, 2.801 million Incheon, 2.199 million Daegu (Taegu), 1.566 million Daejon (Taejon), 1.522 million Gwangju (Kwangju) (2020)
    Sex ratio field listing
    at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
    Mother's mean age at first birth field listing
    31 years (2014 est.)
    Maternal mortality rate field listing
    11 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    Infant mortality rate field listing
    total: 3 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 2.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 216
    Life expectancy at birth field listing
    total population: 82.6 years
    male: 79.4 years
    female: 85.9 years (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    Total fertility rate field listing
    1.29 children born/woman (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 223
    Contraceptive prevalence rate field listing
    82.3% (2018)

    note: percent of women aged 20-49

    Drinking water source field listing
    improved: total: 100% of population
    unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
    Current Health Expenditure field listing
    7.6% (2017)
    Physicians density field listing
    2.36 physicians/1,000 population (2017)
    Hospital bed density field listing
    12.3 beds/1,000 population (2017)
    Sanitation facility access field listing
    improved: total: 100% of population
    unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate field listing
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS field listing
    HIV/AIDS - deaths field listing
    Major infectious diseases field listing
    Covid-19 (see note) (2020)
    note: a novel coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness (COVID-19) in South Korea; illness with this virus has ranged from mild to severe with fatalities reported; the US Department of State has issued a Travel Advisory recommending avoiding all international travel due to COVID-19; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended against all international travel and published additional guidance at ; as of 10 November 2020, South Korea has reported 27,427 confirmed cases of COVID19 with 478 deaths
    Obesity - adult prevalence rate field listing
    4.7% (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 184
    Children under the age of 5 years underweight field listing
    0.7% (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 128
    Education expenditures field listing
    5.3% of GDP (2015)
    country comparison to the world: 48
    Literacy field listing
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write (2019)
    total population: 98% (2019)
    male: 99.2%
    female: 96.6%
    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) field listing
    total: 17 years
    male: 17 years
    female: 16 years (2018)
    Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 field listing
    total: 10.2%
    male: 10.6%
    female: 10% (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 124
  • Government :: Korea, South
  • Country name field listing
    conventional long form: Republic of Korea
    conventional short form: South Korea
    local long form: Taehan-min'guk
    local short form: Han'guk
    abbreviation: ROK
    etymology: derived from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century A.D.; the South Korean name "Han'guk" derives from the long form, "Taehan-min'guk," which is itself a derivation from "Daehan-je'guk," which means "the Great Empire of the Han"; "Han" refers to the "Sam'han" or the "Three Han Kingdoms" (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla from the Three Kingdoms Era, 1st-7th centuries A.D.)
    Government type field listing
    presidential republic
    Capital field listing
    name: Seoul; note - Sejong, located some 120 km (75 mi) south of Seoul, is serving as an administrative capital for segments of the South Korean Government
    geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
    time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    etymology: the name originates from the Korean word meaning "capital city" and which is believed to be derived from Seorabeol, the name of the capital of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Silla
    Administrative divisions field listing

    9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city (teugbyeolsi), and 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeoljachisi)

    provinces: Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeonggi, Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)

    metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejeon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan

    special city: Seoul

    special self-governing city: Sejong

    Independence field listing
    15 August 1945 (from Japan)
    National holiday field listing
    Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
    Constitution field listing
    history: several previous; latest passed by National Assembly 12 October 1987, approved in referendum 28 October 1987, effective 25 February 1988
    amendments: proposed by the president or by majority support of the National Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership, approval in a referendum by more than one half of the votes by more than one half of eligible voters, and promulgation by the president; amended several times, last in 1987
    International law organization participation field listing
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    Citizenship field listing
    citizenship by birth: no
    citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Korea
    dual citizenship recognized: no
    residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
    Suffrage field listing
    18years of age; universal; note - the voting age was lowered from 19 to 18 beginning with the 2020 national election
    Executive branch field listing
    chief of state: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017); the president is both chief of state and head of government; Prime Minister CHUNG Sye-kyun (since 14 January 2020) serves as the principal executive assistant to the president, similar to the role of a vice president
    head of government: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017)
    cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
    elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a single 5-year term; election last held on 9 May 2017 (next to be held in March 2022); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
    election results: MOON Jae-in elected president; percent of vote - MOON Jae-in (DP) 41.1%, HONG Joon-pyo (LKP) 25.5%, AHN Cheol-soo (PP) 21.4%, other 12%
    Legislative branch field listing
    description: unicameral National Assembly or Kuk Hoe (300 seats statutory); 253 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 47 directly elected in a single national constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
    elections: last held on 15 April 2020 (next to be held in April 2024)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DP/TCP 180, UFP/FKP 103, JP 6, ODP 3, PP 3, independent 5; composition - men 249, women 51, percent of women 17%
    Judicial branch field listing
    highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of a chief justice and 13 justices); Constitutional Court (consists of a court head and 8 justices)
    judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly; other justices appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the chief justice and consent of the National Assembly; position of the chief justice is a 6-year nonrenewable term; other justices serve 6-year renewable terms; Constitutional Court justices appointed - 3 by the president, 3 by the National Assembly, and 3 by the Supreme Court chief justice; court head serves until retirement at age 70, while other justices serve 6-year renewable terms with mandatory retirement at age 65
    subordinate courts: High Courts; District Courts; Branch Courts (organized under the District Courts); specialized courts for family and administrative issues
    Political parties and leaders field listing
    Bareun Mirae Party or BMP [SOHN Hak-kyu] (merger of Bareun Party and People's Party)
    Democratic Party or DP [LEE Hae-chan] (renamed from Minjoo Party of Korea or MPK in October 2016; formerly New Politics Alliance for Democracy or NPAD, which was a merger of the Democratic Party or DP (formerly DUP) [KIM Han-gil] and the New Political Vision Party or NPVP [AHN Cheol-soo] in March 2014)
    Justice Party or JP [SIM Sang-jung]
    Minjung Party or MP (formed from the merger of the New People's Party (formerly the New People's Political Party or NPP) and the People's United Party or PUP)
    Open Democratic Pary or ODP [LEE Keun-shik] (formed in early 2020)
    Our Republic Party [CHO Won-jin and HONG Moon-jong] (formerly Korean Patriots' Party or KPP)
    Party for Democracy and Peace or PDP [CHUNG Dong-young]
    People Party or PP [AHN Cheol-soo] (formed in February 2020)
    Together Citizens' Party [WOO Hee-jong, ChOI Bae-geun] (formed in early 2020 in alliance with the Democratic Party)
    United Future Party or UFP (formed in early 2020 by the merger of Liberty Korea Party, New Conservative Party, Onward for Future 4.0, and several other minor parties; it has a sister relationship with the Future Korea Party
    International organization participation field listing
    ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, Arctic Council (observer), ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    chief of mission: Ambassador LEE Soo-hyuck (since 6 January 2020)
    chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
    FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595
    consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    chief of mission: Ambassador Harry HARRIS (since 10 July 2018)
    telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
    embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 03141
    mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, 9600 Seoul Place Washington, D.C., 20521-9600
    FAX: [82] (2) 725-0152
    Flag description field listing
    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 South 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 symbol(s) field listing
    taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Siberian tiger; national colors: red, white, blue, black
    National anthem field listing
    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's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics

  • Economy :: Korea, South
  • Economy - overview field listing

    After emerging from the 1950-53 war with North Korea, South Korea emerged as one of the 20th century’s most remarkable economic success stories, becoming a developed, globally connected, high-technology society within decades. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorest countries in the world. In 2004, South Korea's GDP surpassed one trillion dollars.

    Beginning in the 1960s under President PARK Chung-hee, the government promoted the import of raw materials and technology, encouraged saving and investment over consumption, kept wages low, and directed resources to export-oriented industries that remain important to the economy to this day. Growth surged under these policies, and frequently reached double-digits in the 1960s and 1970s. Growth gradually moderated in the 1990s as the economy matured, but remained strong enough to propel South Korea into the ranks of the advanced economies of the OECD by 1997. These policies also led to the emergence of family-owned chaebol conglomerates such as Daewoo, Hyundai, and Samsung, which retained their dominant positions even as the government loosened its grip on the economy amid the political changes of the 1980s and 1990s.

    The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 hit South Korea’s companies hard because of their excessive reliance on short-term borrowing, and GDP ultimately plunged by 7% in 1998. South Korea tackled difficult economic reforms following the crisis, including restructuring some chaebols, increasing labor market flexibility, and opening up to more foreign investment and imports. These steps lead to a relatively rapid economic recovery. South Korea also began expanding its network of free trade agreements to help bolster exports, and has since implemented 16 free trade agreements covering 58 countries—including the United State and China—that collectively cover more than three-quarters of global GDP.

    In 2017, the election of President MOON Jae-in brought a surge in consumer confidence, in part, because of his successful efforts to increase wages and government spending. These factors combined with an uptick in export growth to drive real GDP growth to more than 3%, despite disruptions in South Korea’s trade with China over the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea.

    In 2018 and beyond, South Korea will contend with gradually slowing economic growth - in the 2-3% range - not uncommon for advanced economies. This could be partially offset by efforts to address challenges arising from its rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, continued dominance of the chaebols, and heavy reliance on exports rather than domestic consumption. Socioeconomic problems also persist, and include rising inequality, poverty among the elderly, high youth unemployment, long working hours, low worker productivity, and corruption.

    GDP (purchasing power parity) field listing
    $2.035 trillion (2017 est.)
    $1.974 trillion (2016 est.)
    $1.918 trillion (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 14
    GDP (official exchange rate) field listing
    $1.54 trillion (2017 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate field listing
    2.04% (2019 est.)
    2.91% (2018 est.)
    3.16% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 134
    GDP - per capita (PPP) field listing
    $39,500 (2017 est.)
    $38,500 (2016 est.)
    $37,600 (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 46
    Gross national saving field listing
    36.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
    36.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
    36.6% of GDP (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    GDP - composition, by end use field listing
    household consumption: 48.1% (2017 est.)
    government consumption: 15.3% (2017 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 31.1% (2017 est.)
    investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 43.1% (2017 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -37.7% (2017 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin field listing
    agriculture: 2.2% (2017 est.)
    industry: 39.3% (2017 est.)
    services: 58.3% (2017 est.)
    Agriculture - products field listing
    rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, fish
    Industries field listing
    electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
    Industrial production growth rate field listing
    4.6% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 63
    Labor force field listing
    26.839 million (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    Labor force - by occupation field listing
    agriculture: 4.8%
    industry: 24.6%
    services: 70.6% (2017 est.)
    Unemployment rate field listing
    3.76% (2019 est.)
    3.85% (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 55
    Population below poverty line field listing
    14.4% (2016 est.)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share field listing
    lowest 10%: 6.8%
    highest 10%: 48.5% (2015 est.)
    Budget field listing
    revenues: 357.1 billion (2017 est.)
    expenditures: 335.8 billion (2017 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues field listing
    23.2% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 129
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) field listing
    1.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 24
    Public debt field listing
    39.5% of GDP (2017 est.)
    39.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    Fiscal year field listing
    calendar year
    Inflation rate (consumer prices) field listing
    1.9% (2017 est.)
    1% (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    Current account balance field listing
    $59.971 billion (2019 est.)
    $77.467 billion (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Exports field listing
    $577.4 billion (2017 est.)
    $512 billion (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Exports - partners field listing
    China 25.1%, US 12.2%, Vietnam 8.2%, Hong Kong 6.9%, Japan 4.7% (2017)
    Exports - commodities field listing
    semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
    Imports field listing
    $457.5 billion (2017 est.)
    $393.1 billion (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Imports - commodities field listing
    crude oil/petroleum products, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles
    Imports - partners field listing
    China 20.5%, Japan 11.5%, US 10.5%, Germany 4.2%, Saudi Arabia 4.1% (2017)
    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold field listing
    $389.2 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $371.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Debt - external field listing
    $384.6 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $384.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 29
    Exchange rates field listing
    South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
    1,130.48 (2017 est.)
    1,160.41 (2016 est.)
    1,160.77 (2015 est.)
    1,130.95 (2014 est.)
    1,052.96 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: Korea, South
  • Electricity access field listing
    electrification - total population: 100% (2020)
    Electricity - production field listing
    526 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 10
    Electricity - consumption field listing
    507.6 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Electricity - exports field listing
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 155
    Electricity - imports field listing
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 166
    Electricity - installed generating capacity field listing
    111.2 million kW (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    Electricity - from fossil fuels field listing
    70% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 109
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels field listing
    21% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 7
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants field listing
    2% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 139
    Electricity - from other renewable sources field listing
    8% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 86
    Crude oil - production field listing
    0 bbl/day (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 157
    Crude oil - exports field listing
    0 bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 148
    Crude oil - imports field listing
    3.057 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Crude oil - proved reserves field listing
    NA (1 January 2017 est.)
    Refined petroleum products - production field listing
    3.302 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 6
    Refined petroleum products - consumption field listing
    2.584 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 8
    Refined petroleum products - exports field listing
    1.396 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 6
    Refined petroleum products - imports field listing
    908,800 bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 6
    Natural gas - production field listing
    339.8 million cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 76
    Natural gas - consumption field listing
    45.28 billion cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 18
    Natural gas - exports field listing
    0 cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 131
    Natural gas - imports field listing
    48.65 billion cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    Natural gas - proved reserves field listing
    7.079 billion cu m (1 January 2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 82
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy field listing
    778.4 million Mt (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 7
  • Communications :: Korea, South
  • Telephones - fixed lines field listing
    total subscriptions: 24,924,607
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 48.27 (2019 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 10
    Telephones - mobile cellular field listing
    total subscriptions: 69,445,005
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 134.49 (2019 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 23
    Telecommunication systems field listing
    general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies; ranked 2nd out of 34 Asian telecom companies; exceedingly high mobile and mobile broadband penetration and very high fixed broadband penetration; highest number of broadband per capita; strong support from govt., savvy population has catapulted the nation into one of the world's most active telecommunication markets; 5G services live for enterprise customers in 2019, all 3 mobile operators offer 5G networks; slower growth predicted over the next five years to 2023 due to saturation and maturity of market; Chinese telecommunications company Huawei has partnered with other MNOs in South Korea (2020)
    domestic: fixed-line 48 per 100 and mobile-cellular services 135 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce (2019)
    international: country code - 82; landing points for EAC-C2C, FEA, SeaMeWe-3, TPE, APCN-2, APG, FLAG North Asia Loop/REACH North Asia Loop, KJCN, NCP, and SJC2 submarine cables providing links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and US; satellite earth stations - 66 (2019)
    note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated
    Broadcast media field listing
    multiple national TV 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 available; publicly operated radio broadcast networks and many privately owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations
    Internet country code field listing
    Internet users field listing
    total: 49,309,955
    percent of population: 95.9% (July 2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 17
    Broadband - fixed subscriptions field listing
    total: 21,285,858
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 41 (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
  • Transportation :: Korea, South
  • National air transport system field listing
    number of registered air carriers: 14 (2020)
    inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 424
    annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 88,157,579 (2018)
    annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 11,929,560,000 mt-km (2018)
    Civil aircraft registration country code prefix field listing
    HL (2016)
    Airports field listing
    111 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 52
    Airports - with paved runways field listing
    total: 71 (2017)
    over 3,047 m: 4 (2017)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 19 (2017)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 12 (2017)
    914 to 1,523 m: 13 (2017)
    under 914 m: 23 (2017)
    Airports - with unpaved runways field listing
    total: 40 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)
    under 914 m: 38 (2013)
    Heliports field listing
    466 (2013)
    Pipelines field listing
    3790 km gas, 16 km oil, 889 km refined products (2017)
    Railways field listing
    total: 3,979 km (2016)
    standard gauge: 3,979 km 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified) (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 49
    Roadways field listing
    total: 100,428 km (2016)
    paved: 92,795 km (includes 4,193 km of expressways) (2016)
    unpaved: 7,633 km (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 47
    Waterways field listing
    1,600 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 49
    Merchant marine field listing
    total: 1,880
    by type: bulk carrier 83, container ship 86, general cargo 368, oil tanker 187, other 1,156 (2019)
    country comparison to the world: 12
    Ports and terminals field listing
    major seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu
    container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (20,493,000), Incheon (3,050,000), Kwangyang (2,230,000) (2017)
    LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu
  • Military and Security :: Korea, South
  • Military and security forces field listing
    Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea: Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Navy (ROKN, includes Marine Corps, ROKMC), Air Force (ROKAF); Military reserves include Mobilization Reserve Forces (First Combat Forces) and Homeland Defense Forces (Regional Combat Forces); Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Korea Coast Guard (2019)
    Military expenditures field listing
    2.7% of GDP (2019)
    2.6% of GDP (2018)
    2.4% of GDP (2017)
    2.5% of GDP (2016)
    2.5% of GDP (2015)
    country comparison to the world: 33
    Military and security service personnel strengths field listing
    the Republic of Korea Armed Forces have approximately 600,000 active duty personnel (465,000 Army; 70,000 Navy/Marines; 65,000 Air Force) (2019)
    Military equipment inventories and acquisitions field listing
    the Republic of Korea Armed Forces are equipped with a mix of domestically-produced and imported weapons systems; domestic production includes armored fighting vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and naval ships; the top foreign weapons supplier is the US and some domestically-produced systems are built under US license; Germany is the second largest supplier of armaments since 2010 (2019 est.)
    Military deployments field listing
    280 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 270 South Sudan (UNMISS); 170 United Arab Emirates; note - since 2009, the ROK has kept a naval flotilla with approximately 300 personnel in the waters off of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (2020)
    Military service age and obligation field listing
    18-28 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum conscript service obligation varies by service- 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, are able to serve in all branches (2019)
    note:  South Korea intends to reduce the length of military service to 18 – 22 months by 2022
  • Transnational Issues :: Korea, South
  • Disputes - international field listing

    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

    Refugees and internally displaced persons field listing
    stateless persons: 197 (2019)