Distant wintertime view of the “Bridge of No Return.” Located in the Joint Security Area (JSA), the bridge crosses the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) between North Korea and South Korea. It was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953.
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The first recorded kingdom (Choson) on the Korean Peninsula dates from approximately 2300 B.C. Over the subsequent centuries, three main kingdoms - Kogoryo, Paekche, and Silla - were established on the Peninsula.  By the 5th century A.D., Kogoryo emerged as the most powerful, with control over much of the Peninsula, as well as part of Manchuria (modern-day northeast China).  However, Silla allied with the Chinese to create the first unified Korean state in the late 7th century (688).  Following the collapse of Silla in the 9th century, Korea was unified under the Koryo (Goryeo; 918-1392) and the Chosen (Joseon; 1392-1910) dynasties.

Korea became the object of intense imperialistic rivalry between the Chinese (its traditional benefactor), Japanese, and Russian empires in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Korea was occupied by Imperial Japan. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the US and its allies 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 (North Korea; aka 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 North Korea 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.

Park was assassinated in 1979, and subsequent years were marked by political turmoil and continued authoritarian rule as the country's pro-democracy movement grew. South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former South Korean 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 South Korean 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 North Korea'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-North Korea summits in 2018 and 2019. Nevertheless, relations were stagnant into early 2022


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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: 99,720 sq km

land: 96,920 sq km

water: 2,800 sq km

country comparison to the world: 114

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana

<p>slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana</p>

Land boundaries

total: 237 km

border countries (1): North Korea 237 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; cold winters


mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south


highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

mean elevation: 282 m

Natural resources

coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential

Land use

agricultural land: 18.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 63.9% (2018 est.)

other: 18% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

7,780 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

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

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

Geography - note

strategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coasts

Map description

South Korea map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and water bodies.

People and Society


noun: Korean(s)

adjective: Korean

Ethnic groups



Korean, English (widely taught in elementary, junior high, and high school)

major-language sample(s):
월드 팩트북, 필수적인 기본 정보 제공처 (Korean)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Korean audio sample:


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

0-14 years: 12.02% (male 3,191,584/female 3,025,029)

15-24 years: 10.75% (male 2,900,013/female 2,658,057)

25-54 years: 44.83% (male 12,106,860/female 11,077,642)

55-64 years: 15.66% (male 3,958,718/female 4,142,322)

65 years and over: 16.74% (2021 est.) (male 3,766,138/female 4,888,799)

This is the population pyramid for South Korea. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 39.5

youth dependency ratio: 17.5

elderly dependency ratio: 22

potential support ratio: 4.5 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 43.2 years

male: 41.6 years

female: 45 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 29

Birth rate

6.92 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 225

Death rate

7.12 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 117

Net migration rate

2.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

Population distribution

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


urban population: 81.4% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 0.31% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

9.976 million SEOUL (capital), 3.468 million Busan, 2.834 million Incheon, 2.185 million Daegu (Taegu), 1.573 million Daejon (Taejon), 1.526 million Gwangju (Kwangju) (2022)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.09 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.11 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.6 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

32.2 years (2019 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

11 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 142

Infant mortality rate

total: 2.87 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 3.08 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 214

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 82.97 years

male: 79.88 years

female: 86.24 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 16

Contraceptive prevalence rate

82.3% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 20-49

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.9% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.1% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

2.48 physicians/1,000 population (2019)

Hospital bed density

12.4 beds/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.9% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.1% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

respiratory diseases: Covid-19 (see note) (2020)

note: a novel coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness (COVID-19) in South Korea; as of 30 March 2022, South Korea has reported a total of 18,168,708 cases of COVID-19 or 35,437.8 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with a total of 24,279 cumulative deaths or a rate of 47.4 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population; as of 6 June 2022, 87.8% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Tobacco use

total: 20.8% (2020 est.)

male: 35.7% (2020 est.)

female: 5.9% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82


definition: age 15 and over can read and write (2019)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 17 years

female: 16 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.3%

male: 11%

female: 9.7% (2020 est.)


Environment - current issues

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

party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 24.57 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 620.3 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 30.28 megatons (2020 est.)


temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winters

Land use

agricultural land: 18.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 63.9% (2018 est.)

other: 18% (2018 est.)


urban population: 81.4% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 0.31% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 123

Major infectious diseases

respiratory diseases: Covid-19 (see note) (2020)

note: a novel coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness (COVID-19) in South Korea; as of 30 March 2022, South Korea has reported a total of 18,168,708 cases of COVID-19 or 35,437.8 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with a total of 24,279 cumulative deaths or a rate of 47.4 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population; as of 6 June 2022, 87.8% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 18,218,975 tons (2014 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 10,567,006 tons (2014 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 58% (2014 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 6.672 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 4.45 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 15.96 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

69.7 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


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

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

presidential republic


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

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: Chungcheongbuk-do (North Chungcheong), Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong), Gangwon-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang), Gyeonggi-do, Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang), Jeju-do (Jeju), Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla), Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla)

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

special city: Seoul

special self-governing city: Sejong


15 August 1945 (from Japan)

National holiday

Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)


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

Legal system

mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


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


18years of age; universal; note - the voting age was lowered from 19 to 18 beginning with the 2020 national election

Executive branch

chief of state: President YOON Suk Yeol (since 10 May 2022); the president is both chief of state and head of government; Prime Minister HAN Deok-Soo (since 21 May 2022) serves as the principal executive assistant to the president, similar to the role of a vice president

head of government: President YOON Suk Yeol (since 10 May 2022)

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 March 2022 (next election held March 2027); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly

election results: YOON Suk-yeol (PPP) 48.56%, LEE Jae-myung (DP) 47.83% (note - voter turnout 77.1%)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Kuk Hoe (300 seats statutory, current 295; 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 on 10 April 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DP/Together Citizens Party 180, UFP/Free Korea Party 103, JP 6, ODP 3, PP 3, independent 5; composition as of April 2022 - men 240, women 55, percent of women 18.6%

Judicial branch

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

Democratic Party or DP [SONG Young-gil] (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 [YEO Young-kug]
Open Democratic Party or ODP [CHOE Kang-wook] (formed in early 2020)
People's 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)
Transition Korea [CHO Jung-hun] (formed in February 2020)
Basic Income Party [SHIN Ji-hye] (formed in January 2020)
People Power Party or PPP [LEE Jun-seok] (renamed from United Future Party in September 2020, formerly Liberty Korea Party) (2021)

note - the Democratic (Minjoo) Party is South Korea’s largest party and its main progressive party; the People Power Party (PPP) is a conservative grouping and is South Korea’s second-largest party; the PPP and its predecessor parties have controlled the National Assembly for all but nine of the 33 years since the 1987 Constitution went into effect (2022)

International organization participation

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, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, Wassenaar Arrangement, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US

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

email address and website:


consulate(s) general: Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (TX), Hagatna (Guam), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant);  Chargé d’Affaires Christopher DEL CORSO (since 16 July 2021)

embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul

mailing address: 9600 Seoul Place, Washington, DC  20521-9600

telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114

FAX: [82] (2) 397-4101

email address and website:


consulate(s): Busan

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 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)

taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Siberian tiger; national colors: red, white, blue, black

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's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 15 (13 cultural, 2 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (n); Changdeokgung Palace Complex (c); Jongmyo Shrine (c); Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (c); Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (c); Gyeongju Historic Areas (c); Namhansanseong (c); Baekje Historic Areas (c); Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea (c); Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (c)


Economic overview

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.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2,187,800,000,000 (2020 est.)

$2,208,960,000,000 (2019 est.)

$2,164,810,000,000 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 14

Real GDP growth rate

2.04% (2019 est.)

2.91% (2018 est.)

3.16% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

Real GDP per capita

$42,300 (2020 est.)

$42,700 (2019 est.)

$41,900 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 37

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1,646,604,000,000 (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0.3% (2019 est.)

1.4% (2018 est.)

1.9% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 34

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2012)

Moody's rating: Aa2 (2015)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2016)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.2% (2017 est.)

industry: 39.3% (2017 est.)

services: 58.3% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

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.)

Agricultural products

rice, vegetables, cabbages, milk, onions, pork, poultry, eggs, tangerines/mandarins, potatoes


electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 4.8%

industry: 24.6%

services: 70.6% (2017 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.3%

male: 11%

female: 9.7% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 137

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 6.8%

highest 10%: 48.5% (2015 est.)


revenues: 357.1 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 335.8 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

39.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

39.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$59.971 billion (2019 est.)

$77.467 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 9


$606.71 billion (2020 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$660.51 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$729.94 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

country comparison to the world: 9

Exports - partners

China 25%, United States 14%, Vietnam 9%, Hong Kong 6%, Japan 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

integrated circuits, cars and vehicle parts, refined petroleum, ships, office machinery (2019)


$540.96 billion (2020 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$607.54 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$649.23 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

country comparison to the world: 9

Imports - partners

China 22%, United States 12%, Japan 9% (2019)

Imports - commodities

crude petroleum, integrated circuits, natural gas, refined petroleum, coal (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$389.2 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$371.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 9

Debt - external

$457.745 billion (2019 est.)

$435.98 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 28

Exchange rates

South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -

1,084.65 (2020 est.)

1,189.9 (2019 est.)

1,119.8 (2018 est.)

1,130.95 (2014 est.)

1,052.96 (2013 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Crude oil - proved reserves

(1 January 2017 est.) NA


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 23,858,239 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 47 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 11

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 70,513,676 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 138 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies; exceedingly high mobile, mobile broadband, and fixed broadband penetration; strong support from government for initiatives; tech-savvy population has catapulted the nation into one of the world's most active telecommunication markets; all mobile operators offer 5G networks; Chinese telecom Huawei partnered with operators including launch of Seoul TechCity; import of integrated circuits, broadcasting equipment, and phones from China; government and private partnership on national e-commerce and smart city development (2020)

domestic: fixed-line approximately 47 per 100 and mobile-cellular services 138 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce (2020)

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 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

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 users

total: 50,281,152 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 97% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 20

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 22,327,182 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 44 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 10


National air transport system

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 (2018) mt-km

Airports - with paved runways

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 (2021)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 40

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 38 (2021)


466 (2021)


3790 km gas, 16 km oil, 889 km refined products (2017)


total: 3,979 km (2016)

standard gauge: 3,979 km (2016) 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified)

country comparison to the world: 49


total: 100,428 km (2016)

paved: 92,795 km (2016) (includes 4,193 km of expressways)

unpaved: 7,633 km (2016)

country comparison to the world: 47


1,600 km (2011) (most navigable only by small craft)

country comparison to the world: 49

Merchant marine

total: 1,904

by type: bulk carrier 78, container ship 91, general cargo 360, oil tanker 184, other 1,191 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 13

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu

container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (21,992,001), Incheon (3,091,955), Kwangyang (2,378,337) (2019)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu

Military and Security

Military and security forces

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 (2022)

note - in January 2022, the South Korean military announced the formation of a space branch

Military expenditures

2.6% of GDP (2021 est.)

2.6% of GDP (2020)

2.7% of GDP (2019) (approximately $58.1 billion)

2.5% of GDP (2018) (approximately $55.8 billion)

2.5% of GDP (2017) (approximately $52.5 billion)

country comparison to the world: 36

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Republic of Korea Armed Forces have approximately 555,000 active duty personnel (420,000 Army; 70,000 Navy/Marines; 65,000 Air Force) (2021)

note - South Korea intends to reduce the size of its military to about 522,000 by 2022

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the South Korean military is equipped with a mix of domestically-produced and imported weapons systems; South Korea has a robust defense industry and production includes armored fighting vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and naval ships; since 2010, the top foreign weapons supplier is the US and some domestically-produced systems are built under US license (2022)

Military service age and obligation

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  (2021)

note(s) - women, in service since 1950, are able to serve in all branches, including as officers, and in 2020 comprised about 7.5% of the active duty military; in 2021, about 330,000 of the military's active personnel were conscripts; South Korea intends to reduce the length of military service to 18 – 22 months by 2022

Military deployments

260 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 280 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 (2022)

Military - note

the 1953 US-South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty is a cornerstone of South Korea’s security; the Treaty committed the US to provide assistance in the event of an attack, particularly from North Korea; in addition, the Treaty gave the US permission to station land, air, and sea forces in and about the territory of South Korea as determined by mutual agreement; as of 2022, the US maintained approximately 28,000 military personnel in the country

the South Korean military has assisted the US in conflicts in Afghanistan (5,000 troops; 2001-2014), Iraq (20,000 troops; 2003-2008), and Vietnam (325,000 troops; 1964-1973)

South Korea has Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status with the US; MNNA is a designation under US law that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation; while MNNA status provides military and economic privileges, it does not entail any security commitments

in 2016, South Korea concluded an agreement with the European Union for participation in EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, such as the EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta, which protects maritime shipping and conducts counter-piracy operations off the coast of East Africa

South Korea has been engaged with NATO through dialogue and security cooperation since 2005 and is considered by NATO to be a global partner; it has participated in NATO-led missions and exercises, including leading an integrated civilian-military reconstruction team in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, 2010-2013; it has also cooperated with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden by providing naval vessels as escorts

in addition to the invasion of South Korea and the subsequent Korean War (1950-53), North Korea from the 1960s to the 1980s launched a considerable number of limited military and subversive actions against South Korea using special forces and terrorist tactics; including aggressive skirmishes along the DMZ, overt attempts to assassinate South Korean leaders, kidnappings, the bombing of an airliner, and a failed effort in 1968 to foment an insurrection and conduct a guerrilla war in the South with more than 100 seaborne commandos; from the 1990s until 2010, the North lost two submarines and a semi-submersible boat attempting to insert infiltrators into the South (1996, 1998) and provoked several engagements in the Northwest Islands area along the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL), including naval skirmishes between patrol boats in 1999 and 2002, the torpedoing and sinking of a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, in 2010, and the bombardment of a South Korean Marine Corps installation on Yeonpyeong Island, also in 2010; since 2010, further minor incidents continue to occur periodically along the DMZ, where both the North and the South Korean militaries maintain large numbers of troops

in 2018, North Korea and South Korea signed a tension reduction agreement known as the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), which established land, sea, and air buffer zones along the DMZ and the NLL; implementation of the CMA required the removal of some land mines and guard posts; the efforts led to a reduction of tension in the DMZ, but as of 2022 North Korea had failed to uphold much of its side of the agreement

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

South Korea-Japan: South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954

South Korea-North Korea: 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

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 204 (mid-year 2021)

Illicit drugs

precursor chemicals used for illicit drugs, such as acetic anhydride, pseudoephedrine, and ephedrine, imported from the United States, Japan, India, and China and then either resold within South Korea or smuggled into other countries