Facts about South Korea

World Facts Index

Korean WarAn 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 independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. 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 government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Dae-jung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il. In October 2007, a second North-South summit took place between the South's President ROH Moo-hyun and the North Korean leader.

Geography of South Korea

Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
37 00 N, 127 30 E
total: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Indiana
Land boundaries:
total: 238 km
border countries: North Korea 238 km
2,413 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM; between 3 NM and 12 NM in the Korea Strait
continental shelf: not specified
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
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
Natural hazards:
occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
Environment current issues:
air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
Geography - note:
strategic location on Korea Strait

Population of South Korea

48,379,392 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 18.9% (male 4,844,083/female 4,368,139)
15-64 years: 71.9% (male 17,886,148/female 17,250,862)
65 years and over: 9.2% (male 1,818,677/female 2,678,914)
Median age:
35.2 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
6.16 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.04 years
male: 73.61 years
female: 80.75 years
Fertility rate:
1.27 children born/woman
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
no affiliation 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%
Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.1%
male: 99.3%
female: 97% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Korea
note: the South Koreans generally use the term "Han'guk" to refer to their country
local long form: Taehan-min'guk
abbreviation: ROK
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 7 metropolitan cities* (gwangyoksi, singular and plural); Cheju-do, Cholla-bukto, Cholla-namdo, Ch'ungch'ong-bukto, Ch'ungch'ong-namdo, Inch'on-gwangyoksi*, Kangwon-do, Kwangju-gwangyoksi*, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto, Kyongsang-namdo, Pusan-gwangyoksi*, Soul-t'ukpyolsi*, Taegu-gwangyoksi*, Taejon-gwangyoksi*, Ulsan-gwangyoksi*
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
17 July 1948
Legal system:
combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
20 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister HAN Seung-soo (since 29 February 2008)
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 19 December 2007 (next to be held on in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by president on prime minister's recommendation.
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Kukhoe (299 seats - members elected for four-year terms; 243 in single-seat constituencies, 56 by proportional representation)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed by president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)
Political parties and leaders:
Democratic Labor Party or DLP [MOON Seong-hyun]; Democratic Party or DP [HAHN Hwa-kap]; Grand National Party or GNP [KANG Jae-sup]; People-Centered Party or PCP [SHIN Kook-hwan]; Uri Party [KIM Geun-tae]
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


Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world 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. Today its GDP per capita is roughly the same as that of Greece and Spain. This success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. 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, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, then recovered by 9.5% in 1999 and 8.5% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms had stalled. Led by consumer spending and exports, growth in 2002 was an impressive 7%, despite anemic global growth. Between 2003 and 2007, growth moderated to about 4-5% annually. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, and an export surplus in 2007 characterize this solid economy, but inflation and unemployment are increasing in the face of rising oil prices

$1.206 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 40.3%
services: 56.3%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
23.53 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 6.4%
industry: 26.4%
services: 67.2%
revenues: $195 billion
expenditures: $189 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 62.4%
hydro: 0.8%
other: 0.2% 
nuclear: 36.6%
electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish
Semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
Export partners:
China 24.6%, US 14.6%, Japan 7.8%, Hong Kong 4.2%, Taiwan 4.1%
machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
Import partners:
Japan 19.1%, China 14.4%, US 11.3%, Saudi Arabia 5.5% 
South Korean won (KRW)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

Copyright 2004 - 2008 worldfacts.us