East & Southeast Asia :: Korea, South

Introduction ::Korea, South

    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 United States in 1945. After World War II, a democratic-based 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 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. 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 South Korea's first civilian president. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. LEE Myung-bak (2008-2013) pursued a policy of global engagement , highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010 and the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012. South Korea also secured a non-permanent seat (2013-14) on the UN Security Council and will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. President PARK Geun-hye took office in February 2013 and is South Korea's first female leader. 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. In January 2013, South Korea assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.

Geography ::Korea, South

    Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
    37 00 N, 127 30 E
    total: 99,720 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 109
    land: 96,920 sq km
    water: 2,800 sq km
    slightly larger than Indiana
    total: 238 km
    border countries: North Korea 238 km
    2,413 km
    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
    lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
    highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
    coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
    arable land: 14.93%
    permanent crops: 2.06%
    other: 83% (2011)
    8,804 sq km (2003)
    69.7 cu km (2011)
    total: 25.47 cu km/yr (26%/12%/62%)
    per capita: 548.7 cu m/yr (2003)
    occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
    volcanism: Halla (elev. 1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries
    air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
    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
    strategic location on Korea Strait

People and Society ::Korea, South

Government ::Korea, South

    conventional long form: Republic of Korea
    conventional short form: South Korea
    local long form: Taehan-min'guk
    local short form: Han'guk
    abbreviation: ROK
    name: Seoul
    geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
    time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city, and 1 special self-governing city
    provinces: Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)
    metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan
    special city: Seoul
    special self-governing city: Sejong
    15 August 1945 (from Japan)
    Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
    17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved 29 October 1987
    mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    19 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President PARK Geun-hye (since 25 February 2013)
    head of government: Prime Minister CHUNG Hong-won (since 26 February 2013); Deputy Prime Minister HYUN Oh-seok (since 26 June 2013)
    cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; PARK Geun-hye elected on 19 December 2012; next election to be held in December 2017; prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
    election results: PARK Geun-Hye elected president on 19 December 2012; percent of vote - PARK Geun-Hye (NFP) 51.6%, MOON Jae-In (DUP) 48%, others 0.4%
    unicameral National Assembly or Gukhoe (300 seats; 246 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 11 April 2012 (next to be held in April 2016)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NFP 152, DUP 127, UPP 13, LFP 5, independents 3
    highest court(s): Supreme Court of South Korea (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 non-renewable 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 undeer the Branch Courts); specialized courts for family and administrative issues
    Democratic Party or DP (formerly the Democratic United Party or DUP) [KIM Han-gil]
    Liberty Forward Party or LFP (now part of the NFP)
    New Frontier Party (NFP) or Saenuri (formerly Grand National Party) [HWANG Woo-yea]
    Progressive Justice Party or PJP [ROH Hoe-chan and CHO Joon-ho]
    United Progressive Party or UPP [LEE Jung-hee]
    Catholic Priests' Association for Justice
    Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice
    Federation of Korean Industries
    Federation of Korean Trade Unions
    Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
    Korean Veterans' Association
    Lawyers for a Democratic Society
    National Council of Churches
    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
    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 (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    chief of mission: Ambassador AHN Ho-young
    chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
    FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595
    consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
    consulate(s) general: Anchorage (AK)
    chief of mission: Ambassador Sung Y. KIM
    embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
    mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, Unit 15550, APO AP 96205-5550
    telephone: [82] (2) 397-4200
    FAX: [82] (2) 725-0152
    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
    taegeuk (yin yang symbol)
    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

    South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, 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 is currently the world's 12th largest economy. 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% annually between 2003 and 2007. Korea''s export focused economy was hit hard by the 2008 global economic downturn, but quickly rebounded in subsequent years, reaching 6.3% growth in 2010. The US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement was ratified by both governments in 2011 and went into effect in March 2012. Throughout 2012 the economy experienced sluggish growth because of market slowdowns in the United States, China, and the Eurozone. The incoming administration in 2013, following the December 2012 presidential election, is likely to face the challenges of balancing heavy reliance on exports with developing domestic-oriented sectors, such as services. The South Korean economy''s long term challenges include a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, and heavy reliance on exports - which comprise half of GDP.
    $1.64 trillion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 13
    $1.608 trillion (2011 est.)
    $1.552 trillion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $1.156 trillion (2012 est.)
    2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 137
    3.6% (2011 est.)
    6.3% (2010 est.)
    $32,800 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 43
    $32,300 (2011 est.)
    $31,400 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    31.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 21
    31.9% of GDP (2011 est.)
    32.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 53.5%
    government consumption: 15.8%
    investment in fixed capital: 26.7%
    investment in inventories: 0.8%
    exports of goods and services: 56.5%
    imports of goods and services: -53.4%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 2.7%
    industry: 39.8%
    services: 57.5% (2012 est.)
    rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish
    electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
    1.7% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 104
    25.5 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 26
    agriculture: 6.2%
    industry: 23.8%
    services: 70% (2012 est.)
    3.2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 27
    3.4% (2011 est.)
    16.5% (2011 est.)
    lowest 10%: 6.4%
    highest 10%: 37.7% (2011)
    41.9 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 51
    35.8 (2000)
    revenues: $276.5 billion
    expenditures: $260.1 billion (2012 est.)
    23.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    1.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 30
    36.7% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 95
    36.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    calendar year
    2.2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 50
    4% (2011 est.)
    1.5% (31 December 2011)
    country comparison to the world: 131
    1.25% (31 December 2009)
    5.39% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 146
    5.77% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $392 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 14
    $369.6 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.596 trillion (31 December 2012)
    country comparison to the world: 12
    $1.484 trillion (31 December 2011)
    $1.219 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 16
    $1.098 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.024 trillion (31 December 2012)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    $994.3 billion (31 December 2011)
    $1.089 trillion (31 December 2010)
    $3.14 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 34
    $26.51 billion (2011 est.)
    $552.6 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 7
    $551.8 billion (2011 est.)
    semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
    China 24.4%, US 10.1%, Japan 7.1% (2011 est.)
    $514.2 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 8
    $520.1 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
    China 16.5%, Japan 13%, US 8.5%, Saudi Arabia 7.1%, Australia 5% (2011 est.)
    $327 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    $306.4 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $413.4 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 28
    $398.7 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $138.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 32
    $133.7 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $327.5 billion (31 December 2012)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    $190.4 billion (31 December 2011)
    South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
    1,126.47 (2012 est.)
    1,108.29 (2011 est.)
    1,156.1 (2010 est.)
    1,276.93 (2009)
    1,101.7 (2008)

Energy ::Korea, South

Communications ::Korea, South

    29.468 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    52.507 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 27
    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 170 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 (2011)
    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 (2010)
    315,697 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 62
    39.4 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 11

Transportation ::Korea, South

    111 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 53
    total: 71
    over 3,047 m: 4
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 19
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
    914 to 1,523 m: 13
    under 914 m: 23 (2013)
    total: 40
    914 to 1,523 m: 2
    under 914 m:
    38 (2013)
    466 (2013)
    gas 2,216 km; oil 16 km; refined products 889 km (2013)
    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: 42
    paved: 80,642 km (includes 3,367 km of expressways)
    unpaved: 22,387 km (2008)
    1,600 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 51
    total: 786
    country comparison to the world: 14
    by type: bulk carrier 191, cargo 235, carrier 8, chemical tanker 130, container 72, liquefied gas 44, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 15, petroleum tanker 55, refrigerated cargo 15, roll on/roll off 10, vehicle carrier 6
    foreign-owned: 31 (China 6, France 2, Japan 14, Taiwan 1, US 8)
    registered in other countries: 457 (Bahamas 1, Cambodia 10, Ghana 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 2, Kiribati 1, Liberia 2, Malta 2, Marshall Islands 41, North Korea 1, Panama 373, Philippines 1, Russia 1, Singapore 3, Tuvalu 1, unknown 8) (2010)
    major ports: Incheon, Pohang, Busan, Ulsan, Yeosu
    container ports: Busan (16,163,842), Kwangyang (2,061,958), Incheon (1,924,644)

Military ::Korea, South

Transnational Issues ::Korea, South

    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
    stateless persons: 179 (2012)