About South Korea (The Country)


An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a democratic-based government (Republic of Korea, ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a communist-style government was installed in the north (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside ROK soldiers to defend South Korea from a DPRK invasion supported by China and the Soviet Union. A 1953 armistice split the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime, from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea. South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former ROK Army general ROH Tae-woo winning a close race. In 1993, KIM Young-sam (1993-98) became 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 and is South Korea's first female leader. South Korea holds a non-permanent seat (2013-14) on the UN Security Council and will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Serious tensions with North Korea have punctuated inter-Korean relations in recent years, including the North's attacks on a South Korean ship and island in 2010, nuclear and missile tests, and its temporary closure of the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in 2013.


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 Country comparison to the world: 109 Land: 96,920 sq km Water: 2,800 sq km


Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter.


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

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

Occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest.




49,039,986 (July 2014 est.) Country comparison to the world: 27

Age Structure

0-14 years: 14.1% (male 3,603,943/female 3,328,634) 15-24 years: 13.5% (male 3,515,271/female 3,113,257) 25-54 years: 47.3% (male 11,814,872/female 11,360,962) 55-64 years: 12.4% (male 3,012,051/female 3,081,480) 65 years and over: 12.3% (male 2,570,433/female 3,639,083) (2014 est.)

Median Age

Total: 40.2 years Male: 38.7 years Female: 41.6 years (2014 est.)

Population Growth

Total: 40.2 years Male: 38.7 years Female: 41.6 years (2014 est.)

Sex Ratio

At birth: 1.07 male(s)/female 0-14 years: 1.08 male(s)/female 15-24 years: 1.13 male(s)/female 25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 55-64 years: 1 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female Total population: 1 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate

Total: 3.93 deaths/1,000 live births Country comparison to the world: 200 Male: 4.13 deaths/1,000 live births Female: 3.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth

Total population: 79.8 years Country comparison to the world: 39 Male: 76.67 years Female: 83.13 years (2014 est.)

Total Fertility Rate

1.25 children born/woman (2014 est.) Country comparison to the world: 220


Less than 0.1% (2009 est.) Country comparison to the world: 154




Christian 31.6% (Protestant 24%, Roman Catholic 7.6%), Buddhist 24.2%, other or unknown 0.9%, none 43.3% (2010 survey)


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


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


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



Time Difference

UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Legal system

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


South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies, and is currently the world's 12th largest economy. Initially, a system of close government and business ties, including directed credit and import restrictions, made this success possible. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods, and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model including high debt/equity ratios and massive short-term foreign borrowing. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, and then recovered by 9% in 1999-2000. South Korea adopted numerous economic reforms following the crisis, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Growth moderated to about 4% annually between 2003 and 2007. South Korea's export focused economy was hit hard by the 2008 global economic downturn, but quickly rebounded in subsequent years, reaching 6.3% growth in 2010. The US-Korea Free Trade Agreement was ratified by both governments in 2011 and went into effect in March 2012. Throughout 2012 and 2013 the economy experienced sluggish growth because of market slowdowns in the United States, China, and the Eurozone. The administration in 2014 is likely to face the challenge of balancing heavy reliance on exports with developing domestic-oriented sectors, such as services. The South Korean economy's long term challenges include a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, dominance of large conglomerates (chaebols), and heavy reliance on exports, which comprise about half of GDP.


Source: CIA World Factbook - South Korea

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