Photos of 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 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.


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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: 109

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana

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


mean elevation: 282 m

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

Natural resources

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

Land use

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

People and Society


noun: Korean(s)

adjective: Korean

Ethnic groups



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


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% (male 3,766,138/female 4,888,799) (2021 est.)

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

6.89 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 226

Death rate

6.96 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Net migration rate

2.65 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 40

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 (2020)

rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

9.968 million SEOUL (capital), 3.466 million Busan, 2.818 million Incheon, 2.191 million Daegu (Taegu), 1.569 million Daejon (Taejon), 1.524 million Gwangju (Kwangju) (2021)

Sex ratio

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.)

Maternal mortality rate

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

country comparison to the world: 142

Infant mortality rate

total: 2.91 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 3.12 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 215

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 82.78 years

male: 79.66 years

female: 86.06 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 15

Contraceptive prevalence rate

82.3% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 20-49

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.36 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

12.3 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 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; 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 6 April 2021, South Korea has reported a total of 106,230 cases of COVID-19 or 207.2 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with 3.42 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population


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)

total: 17 years

male: 17 years

female: 16 years (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 10.2%

male: 10.6%

female: 10% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 124


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: 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


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 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

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

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

Bareun Mirae Party or BMP [SOHN Hak-kyu] (merger of Bareun Party and People's Party)
Democratic Party or DP [LEE Nak-yon; resigned March 2021] (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

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

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

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant);  Chargé d’Affaires Rob RAPSON Rapson (since 20 January 2021)

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

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


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 growth rate

2.04% (2019 est.)

2.91% (2018 est.)

3.16% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

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)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2,211,315,000,000 (2019 est.)

$2,167,119,000,000 (2018 est.)

$2,105,893,000,000 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 14

GDP (official exchange rate)

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

Real GDP per capita

$42,765 (2019 est.)

$41,993 (2018 est.)

$41,001 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 41

Gross national saving

34.8% of GDP (2019 est.)

35.9% of GDP (2018 est.)

37% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

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.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 84 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 93.4 (2020)

Trading score: 92.5 (2020)

Enforcement score: 84.1 (2020)

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.)

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


$683.996 billion (2019 est.)

$672.442 billion (2018 est.)

$646.728 billion (2017 est.)

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)


$599.705 billion (2019 est.)

$603.535 billion (2018 est.)

$593.371 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 11

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

NA (1 January 2017 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 24,924,607

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 48.27 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 10

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 69,445,005

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 134.49 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

Telecommunication systems

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

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: 49,309,955

percent of population: 95.9% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 21,285,858

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 41 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 9


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 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

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

total: 40 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)

under 914 m: 38 (2013)


466 (2013)


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


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


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


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

country comparison to the world: 49

Merchant marine

total: 1,889

by type: bulk carrier 88, container ship 84, general cargo 357, oil tanker 187, other 1,173 (2020)

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 (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

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 (2021)

Military expenditures

2.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.7% of GDP (2019)

2.6% of GDP (2018)

2.6% of GDP (2017)

2.6% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 33

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Republic of Korea Armed Forces have approximately 600,000 active duty personnel (420,000 Army; 70,000 Navy/Marines; 65,000 Air Force) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

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 (2020)

Military deployments

250 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 250 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 (Jan 2021)

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; women, in service since 1950, are able to serve in all branches (2020)

note:  South Korea intends to reduce the length of military service to 18 – 22 months by 2022

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 197 (2019)