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An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single country. It became a Chinese tributary state in 1392 with the formation of the Choson Dynasty. Korea became an independent country at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 with the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Imperial Japan, following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, forced Korea to sign the Protectorate Treaty. In 1910 Tokyo annexed the Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style... See More



 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

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly larger than Indiana

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 238 km
Border countries: North Korea 238 km


 2,413 km (Rank: 53)

Maritime Claims:

 Territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
Contiguous zone: 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Continental shelf: not specified


 Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter


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

Elevation Extremes:

 Lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
Highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

Natural Resources:

 Coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential

Land Use:

 Arable land: 16.58%
Permanent crops: 2.01%
Other: 81.41% (2005)

Irrigated Land:

 8,320 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 69.7 cu km (1999)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 Total: 18.59 cu km/yr (36%/16%/48%)
Per capita: 389 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural Hazards:

 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

Environment - Current Issues:

 Air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing

Environment - International Agreements:

 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:

 Strategic location on Korea Strait

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 Noun: Korean(s)
Adjective: Korean

Ethnic Groups:

 Homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)


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


 Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)


 48,754,657 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 15.7% (male 3,980,541/female 3,650,631)
15-64 years: 72.9% (male 18,151,023/female 17,400,809)
65 years and over: 11.4% (male 2,259,621/female 3,312,032) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 38.4 years
Male: 37 years
Female: 39.8 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 0.23% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 8.55 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 6.26 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 83% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 SEOUL (capital) 9.778 million; Busan (Pusan) 3.439 million; Incheon (Inch'on) 2.572 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.458 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.497 million (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.069 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
Total population: 1 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 18 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 4.16 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 4.37 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 3.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 79.05 years
Male: 75.84 years
Female: 82.49 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 1.23 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 6.5% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 1.967 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital Bed Density:

 12.28 beds/1,000 population (2008)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 100% of population
Rural: 88% of population
Total: 98% of population
Urban: 0% of population
Rural: 12% of population
Total: 2% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 100% of population
Rural: 100% of population
Total: 100% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 Less than 0.1% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 9,500 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Fewer than 500 (2009 est.)

Obesity - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 3.2% (2001)

Education Expenditures:

 4.2% of GDP (2007)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 97.9%
Male: 99.2%
Female: 96.6% (2002)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 17 years
Male: 18 years
Female: 16 years (2008)

Unemployment, Youth Ages 15-24:

 Total: 9.8%
Male: 11.9%
Female: 8.5% (2009)

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Country Name:

 Conventional long form: Republic of Korea
Conventional short form: South Korea
Local long form: Taehan-min'guk
Local short form: Han'guk
Abbreviation: ROK

Government Type:



 Name: Seoul
Geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
Time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative Divisions:

 9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural)

Provinces: Chungcheong-bukto (North Chungcheong), Chungcheong-namdo (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongsang-bukto (North Gyeongsang), Gyeongsang-namdo (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeolla-bukto (North Jeolla), Jeolla-namdo (South Jeolla)

Metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Seoul, Ulsan


 15 August 1945 (from Japan)

National Holiday:

 Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)


 17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved 29 October 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


 19 years of age; universal

Executive Branch:

 Chief of state: President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)

Head of government: Prime Minister KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)

Cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation

Elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held on 19 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly

Election results: LEE Myung-bak elected president on 19 December 2007; percent of vote - LEE Myung-bak (GNP) 48.7%; CHUNG Dong-young (UNDP) 26.1%); LEE Hoi-chang (independent) 15.1%; others 10.1%

Legislative Branch:

 Unicameral National Assembly or Gukhoe (299 seats; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)

Elections: last held on 9 April 2008 (next to be held in April 2012)

Election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GNP 172, UDP 83, LFP 20, PPA 8, DLP 5, RKP 1, independents 9

Judicial Branch:

 Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by the president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Democratic Party or DP [SONG Hak-kyu] (formerly the United Democratic Party or UDP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [LEE Jung-hee]; Future Hope Alliance or FHA [ROH Cheoi-rae} (formerly Pro-Park Alliance); Grand National Party or GNP [PARK Geun-hye]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [SHIM Dae-pyeong]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [HAN Myeon-hee]

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders:

 Federation of Korean Industries; Federation of Korean Trade Unions; Korean Confederation of Trade Unions; Korean National Council of Churches; Korean Traders Association; Korean Veterans' Association; National Council of Labor Unions; National Democratic Alliance of Korea; National Federation of Farmers' Associations; National Federation of Student Associations

International Organization Participation:

 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, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador HAN Duk-soo
Chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 387-0205
Consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle

Diplomatic Representation From the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador Sung Y. KIM
Embassy: 32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
Mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
Telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 738-8845

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 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 Symbols:

 Taegeuk (yin yang symbol)

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

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Economy - Overview:

 Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies, and currently is among the world's 20 largest economies. 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 4-5% annually between 2003 and 2007. With the global economic downturn in late 2008, South Korean GDP growth slowed to 0.2% in 2009. In the third quarter of 2009, the economy began to recover, in large part due to export growth, low interest rates, and an expansionary fiscal policy, and growth exceeded 6% in 2010. The South Korean economy's long term challenges include a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $1.459 trillion (2010 est.)
$1.375 trillion (2009 est.)
$1.373 trillion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $1.007 trillion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 6.1% (2010 est.)
0.2% (2009 est.)
2.3% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $30,000 (2010 est.)
$28,300 (2009 est.)
$28,400 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 2.6%
Industry: 39.3%
Services: 58.2% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 24.75 million (2010 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 7.3%
Industry: 24.3%
Services: 68.4% (2010 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 3.7% (2010 est.)
3.7% (2009 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 15% (2006 est.)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 2.7%
Highest 10%: 24.2% (2007)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 31.4 (2009)
35.8 (2000)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 28.6% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $235.1 billion
Expenditures: $222.2 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 23.3% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 1.3% of GDP (2010 est.)

Public Debt:

 22.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
23.5% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 3% (2010 est.)
2.8% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 1.25% (31 December 2009)
1.75% (31 December 2008)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 5.508% (31 December 2010 est.)
5.65% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Money:

 $73.16 billion (31 December 2008)
$92.59 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $473.4 billion (31 December 2008)
$541.7 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $377 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$334.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $1.346 trillion (31 December 2009)
$1.132 trillion (31 December 2008)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $1.066 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)

Market Value of Publicly Traded Shares:

 $1.089 trillion (31 December 2010)
$836.5 billion (31 December 2009)
$494.6 billion (31 December 2008)

Agriculture - Products:

 Rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish


 Electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 16.6% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 417.3 billion kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 62.4%
Hydro: 0.8%
Nuclear: 36.6%
Other: 0.2% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 402 billion kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2010)

Electricity - Imports:

 0 kWh (2010)

Oil - Production:

 48,400 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 2.251 million bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 907,100 bbl/day

Note: exports consist of oil derivatives (gasoline, light oil, and diesel), not crude oil (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 3.074 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 542 million cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 42.69 billion cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 43.58 billion cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 50 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 $36.35 billion (2010 est.)
$32.79 billion (2009 est.)


 $464.3 billion (2010 est.)
$358.2 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

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

Exports - Partners:

 China 27.9%, US 10.2%, Japan 5.8% (2010)


 $422.4 billion (2010 est.)
$320.4 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

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

Imports - Partners:

 China 17.9%, Japan 16.2%, US 10.1%, Saudi Arabia 5.2%, Australia 4.9% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $291.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$270 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $398 billion (30 June 2011 est.)
$380.9 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of Direct Foreign Investment - Abroad:

 $115.6 billion (31 December 2009)
$74.6 billion (30 June 2008)

Stock of Direct Foreign Investment - At Home:

 $127 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$117.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert South Korean Won to Any Currency

South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
1,153.77 (2010)
1,276.93 (2009)
1,101.7 (2008)
929.2 (2007)
954.8 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 28.543 million (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 50.767 million (2010)

Telephone System:

 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 140 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

Broadcast Media:

 Multiple national television 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 are available; publicly-operated radio broadcast networks and a large number of privately-owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations (2010)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 96, FM 322, shortwave 1 (2008)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 57 (plus 103 cable operators and 119 relay cable operators) (2008)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 291,329 (2010)

Internet Users:

 39.4 million (2009)

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 116 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 72
Over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 21
1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 12
Under 914 m: 22 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 44
914 to 1,523 m: 2
Under 914 m: 42 (2010)


 510 (2010)


 Gas 2,139 km; refined products 864 km (2010)


 Total: 3,381 km
Standard gauge: 3,381 km 1.435-m gauge (1,843 km electrified) (2008)


 Total: 103,029 km
Paved: 80,642 km (includes 3,367 km of expressways)
Unpaved: 22,387 km (2008)


 1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2010)

Merchant Marine:

 Total: 819
By type: bulk carrier 201, cargo 246, carrier 5, chemical tanker 132, container 69, liquefied gas 40, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 21, petroleum tanker 67, refrigerated cargo 15, roll on/roll off 9, vehicle carrier 9
Foreign-owned: 33 (China 9, France 1, Japan 15, US 8)
Registered in other countries: 438 (Cambodia 11, Ghana 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 1, Kiribati 2, Liberia 1, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 25, North Korea 1, Panama 366, Philippines 1, Russia 1, Singapore 9, Tuvalu 1, unknown 6) (2010)

Ports and Terminals:

 Incheon (Inch'on), Pohang (P'ohang), Busan (Pusan), Ulsan, Yeosu (Yosu)

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Military Branches:

 Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2011)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 20-30 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; conscript service obligation - 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, admitted to 7 service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps; HIV-positive individuals are exempt from military service (2011)

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 13,185,794
Females age 16-49: 12,423,496 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 10,864,566
Females age 16-49: 10,168,709 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 365,760
Female: 321,225 (2010 est.)

Military Expenditures:

 2.7% of GDP (2006)

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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

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Last Updated: December 2011

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