Republic of Korea
Flag of South Korea.svg Emblem of South Korea.svg
Motto널리 인간을 이롭게 하라 (홍익인간)
"Broadly benefit humankind"
AnthemAegukga (애국가)
The Patriotic Song
Locator map of South Korea.svg
(and largest city)
37°35′N 127°0′E / 37.5833°N 127°E / 37.5833; 127
Official languages Korean
Demonym South Korean, Korean
Government Semi-presidential republic
 -  President Lee Myung-bak
 -  Prime Minister Han Seung-soo
Legislature National Assembly
 -  Independence declared March 1, 1919 
 -  Provisional Government April 13, 1919 
 -  Liberation August 15, 1945 
 -  Constitution July 17, 1948 
 -  Government Proclaimed August 15, 1948 
 -  Total 100,032 km2 (108th)
38,622 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.3
 -   estimate 48,379,392 (26th)
 -  Density 493/km2 (12th)
1,274/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.342 trillion[1] (13th)
 -  Per capita $27,646[1] (32nd)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $947 billion[1] (15th)
 -  Per capita $19,504[1] (36th)
Gini (2007) 31.3 (low)[2] 
HDI (2008) 0.928 (high) (25th)
Currency South Korean won (₩) (KRW)
Time zone Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+9)
Date formats yyyy년 mm월 dd일
yyyy/mm/dd (CE)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .kr
Calling code 82
1 Mobile phone system CDMA, WCDMA, HSDPA and WiBro
2 Domestic power supply 220V/60 Hz, CEE 7/7 sockets

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK) (Korean: 대한민국, IPA: [tɛː.han.min.ɡuk̚]), Loudspeaker listen ) and often referred to as Korea, is a country in East Asia, occupying the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. Also known as the "Land of the Morning Calm", it is neighbored by China to the west and Japan to the east, and borders North Korea to the north. Its capital is Seoul, the second largest metropolitan city in the world[3] and a major global city.[4] South Korea lies in a temperate climate region with a predominantly mountainous terrain. Its territory covers a total area of 100,032 square kilometers and has a population of almost 50 million, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world.[5]

South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of 16 administrative divisions. Archaeological findings indicate that the Korean Peninsula was occupied by humans as early as the Lower Paleolithic period.[6][7] Korea first began with the founding of Gojoseon kingdom in 2333 BCE by Dangun. Following the unification of the Three Korean Kingdoms under Silla in 668 AD, Korea went through the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty as one nation until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910. After liberation and division, South Korea was established in 1948 as a democracy. Following the Korean War, the South Korean economy grew significantly, transforming the country into a major global economy[8].

South Korea is a developed country with a high standard of living. It has the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 15th largest in the world. It is also the second largest advanced economy in Asia, classified by the IMF and CIA. South Korea is one of the world's top ten exporters, and is a leader in technologically advanced goods such as electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics, headed by Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia. South Korea is a member of the United Nations, WTO, OECD and G-20 major economies. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit, and a major non-NATO ally of the United States. More recently, South Korean culture has gained international interest, a trend known as the Korean wave.[9][10]


Main article: Government of South Korea

The National Assembly of South Korea

The government of South Korea is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels. South Korea is a constitutional democracy.

The South Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. This document has been revised several times since its first promulgation in 1948 (see History of South Korea). However, it has retained many broad characteristics; with the exception of the short-lived Second Republic of South Korea, the country has always had a presidential system with an independent chief executive.[11] South Korea has developed a successful liberal democracy since the 1960s and the first direct election was held in 1821. The CIA World Factbook describes South Korea's democracy as a "fully functioning modern democracy".[12]


Before divisionEdit

Main article: History of Korea

Korea began with the founding of Joseon (The name Gojoseon is almost always used to prevent confusion with another Joseon dynasty founded in 14th century; the prefix Go- means 'old' or 'earlier') in 2333 BCE by Dangun.[13] Gojoseon expanded until it controlled much of the northern Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria. After numerous wars with the Chinese Han Dynasty, Gojoseon disintegrated, leading to the Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea period.

In the early centuries of the Common Era, Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and the Samhan confederacy occupied the peninsula and southern Manchuria. Of the various small states, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla grew to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms. The unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 676 led to the North-South States period, in which much of the Korean peninsula was controlled by Unified Silla, while Balhae succeeded the northern parts of Goguryeo. In Unified Silla, poetry and art was encouraged, and Buddhist culture flourished. Relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful during this time. However, Unified Silla weakened under internal strife, and surrendered to Goryeo in 935. Balhae, Silla's neighbor to the north, was formed as a successor state to Goguryeo. During its height, Balhae controlled most of Manchuria and parts of Russia. It fell to the Khitan in 926.

After the North-South Period, successor states fought for control during the Later Three Kingdoms period. The peninsula was soon united by Emperor Taejo of Goryeo. Like Silla, Goryeo was a highly cultural state and created the Jikji in 1377, using the world's oldest movable metal printing press.[14]

The Mongol invasions in the 13th century greatly weakened Goryeo. However, Goryeo continued to rule Korea as a tributary ally to the Mongols. After the fall of the Mongolian Empire, Goryeo continued its rule. After severe political strife and continued invasions, Goryeo was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty in 1388 following a rebellion by General Yi Seong-gye. General Yi declared the new name of Korea as Joseon in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Seoul. The first 200 years of the Joseon Dynasty was marked by relative peace and saw the creation of hangul by Sejong the Great in the 14th century and the rise and influence of Confucianism.
Gyeongbok Palace main attraction

Gyeongbok Palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty.

In the latter of the 16th century, Joseon was invaded by a newly unified Japan. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), centuries of peace had left the dynasty unprepared, and the lack of technology and poor leadership from the Joseon government and generals led to the destruction of much of the Korean peninsula. In the first Japanese invasion (1592–1593), the army sent from China to assist Korea had a prescribed strength of 100,000, including 42,000 from five northern military districts and a contingent of 3,000 soldiers proficient in the use of firearms from South China. In the second Japanese invasion (1597–1598), Chinese army and navy involved were around 75,000 at the climax of the second campaign. In comparison, Japan's invasion army was depleted from 167,700 in the first invasion to 122,100 in the second invasion. Though outnumbered by the Japanese invasion force, however, continued Korean dominance at sea led by Admiral Yi, the rise of local militias, and the intervention of Ming China put Japan under great pressure to retreat in 1598.

During the last years of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the name the "Hermit Kingdom", primarily for protection against Western imperialism before it was forced to open trade beginning an era leading into Japanese colonial rule.

After divisionEdit

Main article: History of South Korea
In the aftermath of World War II, Soviet Union and United States troops controlled the northern and southern halves of the country respectively.

Despite the initial plan of a unified Korea in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, escalating Cold War antagonism eventually led to the establishment of two separate governments, each with its own ideology, leading to Korea's division into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea. In the North, a former anti-Japanese guerrilla and communist activist, Kim Il-sung, and in the South, an exiled Korean political leader, Syngman Rhee, were installed as presidents.

On 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded the South leading to the Korean War. At the time, the Soviet Union boycotted the United Nations (UN), thus forfeiting their veto rights. This allowed the UN to intervene when it became apparent that the superior communist forces would easily take over the entire country. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea, with the later participation of millions of Chinese troops. After huge advances on both sides, the war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the demilitarized zone near the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was ever signed at the time of the armistice, resulting in the two countries remaining technically at war.

Dokdo 20080628-panorama

Dokdo has become an issue known as the Liancourt Rocks dispute.

In 1960, a student uprising led to the resignation of the autocratic President Syngman Rhee. A period of political instability followed, broken by General Park Chung-hee's military coup (the "5-16 coup d'état") against the weak and ineffectual government the next year. Park took over as president until his assassination in 1979, overseeing rapid export-led economic growth as well as severe political repression. Park was heavily criticised as a ruthless military dictator, although the Korean economy developed significantly during his tenure.

The years after Park's assassination were marked again by considerable political turmoil as the previously repressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1980 there was another coup d'état by General Chun Doo-hwan against the transitional government of Choi Gyu Ha, the interim president and a former prime minister under Park. Chun assumed the presidency. His seizure of power triggered nationwide protests demanding democracy, in particular in the city of Gwangju, in Jeollanam-do, where Chun sent special forces to violently suppress the unrest, in what is now known as the Gwangju Massacre.

File:Inside Seoul World Cup Stadium.jpg

Until 1987, Chun and his government held Korea under a despotic rule when Park Jong Chul — a student attending Seoul National University — was tortured to death. On 10 June, the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice revealed Park's torture, igniting huge demonstrations around the country. Eventually, Chun's party, the Democratic Justice Party, and its leader, Roh Tae-woo announced the June 29th Declaration, which included the direct election of the president. Roh went on to win the election by a narrow margin against the two main opposition leaders, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Young-Sam.

In 1988, Seoul successfully hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, and continuing economic development led to membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996. As with many of its Asian neighbors, South Korea was adversely affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, however the country was able to recover and continue its economic growth.

In June 2000, as part of president Kim Dae-Jung's Sunshine Policy' of engagement, a North-South summit took place in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Later that year, Kim received the Nobel Peace Prize "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular."[15]

In 2002, South Korea and Japan jointly co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, however South Korean and Japanese relations later soured due to conflicting claims of sovereignty over the Dokdo Islets (also known as the Liancourt Rocks), in what became known as the Liancourt Rocks dispute.

Foreign relationsEdit

Main article: Foreign relations of South Korea

South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with approximately 170 countries. The country has also been a member of the United Nations since 1991, when it became a member state at the same time as North Korea. On January 1, 2007, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN Secretary-General. It has also developed links with Association of Southeast Asian Nations as both a member of ASEAN Plus three, a body of observers, and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Beginning in May 2007, South Korea and the European Union are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement to reduce trade barriers.[16] South Korea is also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Canada,[17] and another with New Zealand.[18]

United StatesEdit

Ban Ki-moon Bush

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, with former U.S. President George W. Bush

The United States engaged in the decolonization of Korea (mainly South, Soviet Union engaged North Korea) from Japan after World War II. After 3 years of military administration by the United States, the South Korean government was established. Upon the onset of the Korean War, the United States Military was sent to South Korea to defend against the invasion of North Korea and later China. Since then, the two nations have had strong economic, diplomatic and military ties, although they have at times disagreed with regards to policies towards North Korea. Currently, the U.S. Eighth Army, Seventh Air Force and U.S. Naval Forces Korea are stationed in South Korea.


Historically, Korea has had relatively close relations with the Republic of China. Before the formation of South Korea, Korean independence fighters worked with Chinese soldiers during the Japanese occupation. However, after World War II, the People's Republic of China embraced Maoism while South Korea fell under the influence of the United States. The PRC assisted North Korea with manpower and supplies during the Korean War, and in its aftermath the diplomatic relationship between South Korea and the PRC almost completely ceased. Relations thawed gradually and South Korea and the PRC re-established formal diplomatic relations on August 24, 1992. The two countries sought to improve bilateral relations and lifted the forty-year old trade embargo, and[19] South Korean-Chinese relations have improved steadily since 1992.[19] Korea broke off official relations with the Republic of China upon gaining official relations with the People's Republic.


Although there were no formal diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan after the Korean War, South Korea and Japan signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 to establish diplomatic ties. There is heavy anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea due to a number of unsettled Japanese-Korean disputes, many of which stem from the period of Japanese occupation. During World War II, more than 100,000 Koreans were forced to serve in the Imperial Japanese Army.[20][21]Longstanding issues such as Japanese war crimes against Korean civilians, the visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japanese soldiers killed at war, including class A war criminals like Hideki Tojo, the re-writing of Japanese textbooks to overlook Japanese aggression during World War II, and the territorial disputes over Liancourt Rocks continue to trouble Korean-Japanese relations. In response to then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, former President Roh Moo-hyun suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan.[22]

North KoreaEdit

Both North and South Korea continue to officially claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula and any outlying islands. With longstanding animosity following the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, North Korea and South Korea signed an agreement to pursue peace.[23] On October 4, 2007, Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il signed an eight-point agreement on issues of permanent peace, high-level talks, economic cooperation, renewal of train services, highway and air travel, and a joint Olympic cheering squad.[23]

Despite the Sunshine Policy and efforts at reconciliation, the progress was complicated by North Korean missile tests in 1993, 1998, 2006, and again in 2009. Template:Asof, relationships between North and South Korea are very tense; North Korea has been reported to have deployed missiles,[24] ended its former agreements with South Korea,[25] and threatened South Korea and the United States not to interfere with a satellite launch it had planned.[26] As of 2009, North and South Korea are still technically at war (having never signed an armistice after the Korean War) and share the world’s most heavily-fortified border.[27] Since May 27 2009 GMT, North Korea declared that the ceasefire treaty, signed post Korean War, is no longer valid due to South Korea government's pledged to "definitely join" the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Armed forcesEdit

Main article: Military of South Korea
File:T-50 Golden Eagle over Chungnam.jpg

South Korea has the world's sixth largest number of active troops,[28] the world's second largest number of reserve troops[28] and the twelfth largest defence budget. The South Korean army has 2,300 tanks in operation,[29] consisting of technologically advanced models such as the K1A1 and the new K2 Black Panther. The South Korean navy has the world's sixth largest fleet of destroyers and is one of the five navies in the world to operate an Aegis guided missile enabled destroyer, the King Sejong the Great class destroyer.[30] It has also the world's largest fleet of frigates, the sixth largest of corvettes and the fourth largest of submarines in operation. The South Korean airforce operates the ninth largest airforce in the world,[31] composed of advanced American fighters such as the F-15K, KF-16 and advanced indigenous models such as the T-50 Golden Eagle.[32]

The South Korean military consists of the Army (ROKA), the Navy (ROKN), the Air Force (ROKAF), and the Marine Corps (ROKMC), together with reserve forces.[33] Many of these forces are concentrated near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of two years. However, there have been debates about shortening the length of the military services, and even dismissing the mandatory service itself. The government recently allowed some male students who were in the process of earning a university bachelor's degree and master's degree to dismiss the military requirements to allow them to further study and research their fields.

ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH 976)

ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH 976) sails in formation at the end of RIMPAC 2006.

From time to time, South Korea has sent its troops overseas to assist American forces. It has participated in most major conflicts that the United States has been involved in the past 50 years. South Korea dispatched 320,000 troops to fight alongside American, Australian, Filipino, New Zealand and South Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War, with a peak strength of 50,000. Most recently, South Korea sent 3,300 troops of the Zaytun Division to help re-building in northern Iraq, and was the 3rd largest contributor in the coalition forces after only the US and Britain.[34]

The United States has stationed a substantial contingent of troops in South Korea since the Korean War to defend South Korea in case of a North Korean attack. There are also approximately 29,000 U.S. Military personnel stationed in Korea,[35] most of them serving one year of unaccompanied tours. The American Troops, which primarily are assigned to the Eighth United States Army are stationed in installations at Osan, Yongsan, Dongducheon, Sungbuk, and Daegu, which are considered camps not for their lack of buildings or support structure, but to make a political and military statement representing a lack of permanence. A still functioning UN Command is technically the top of the chain of command of all forces in South Korea, including the US forces and the entire South Korean military.

Administrative divisionsEdit

Main article: Administrative divisions of South Korea
See also Special cities of Korea and Provinces of Korea
Provinces of South Korea

Principal divisions of South Korea


General map of South Korea

The major administrative divisions in South Korea are provinces, metropolitan cities (self-governing cities that are not part of any province), and one special city.

Namea hangul hanja
Special cities (Teukbyeolsi)a
1 Seoul (National Capital) 서울특별시 首爾特別市
Metropolitan cities (Gwangyeoksi)a
2 Busan 부산광역시 釜山廣域市
3 Daegu 대구광역시 大邱廣域市
4 Incheon 인천광역시 仁川廣域市
5 Gwangju 광주광역시 光州廣域市
6 Daejeon 대전광역시 大田廣域市
7 Ulsan 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市
Provinces (Do)a
8 Gyeonggi-do 경기도 京畿道
9 Gangwon-do 강원도 江原道
10 Chungcheongbuk-do (Northern Chungcheong) 충청북도 忠淸北道
11 Chungcheongnam-do (Southern Chungcheong) 충청남도 忠淸南道
12 Jeollabuk-do (Northern Jeolla) 전라북도 全羅北道
13 Jeollanam-do (Southern Jeolla) 전라남도 全羅南道
14 Gyeongsangbuk-do (Northern Gyeongsang) 경상북도 慶尙北道
15 Gyeongsangnam-do (Southern Gyeongsang) 경상남도 慶尙南道
Special self-governing province (Teukbyeoljachi-do)a
16 Jeju-teukbyeoljachido 제주특별자치도 濟州特別自治道

a Revised Romanisation.

Geography and climateEdit

Main article: Geography of South Korea
Main article: National parks of South Korea
South Korea Topography

Topography of South Korea


Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.


Boseong tea field.

South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 680 miles (1,100 km) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Strait and the East China Sea.

The country's total area is 38,622.57 square miles (100,032.00 km2).[36]

South Korea can be divided into four general regions: an eastern region of high mountain ranges and narrow coastal plains; a western region of broad coastal plains, river basins, and rolling hills; a southwestern region of mountains and valleys; and a southeastern region dominated by the broad basin of the Nakdong River.

South Korea's terrain is mostly mountainous, most of which is not arable. Lowlands, located primarily in the west and southeast, constitute only 30% of the total land area.

About three thousand islands, mostly small and uninhabited, lie off the western and southern coasts of South Korea. Jeju-do is located about 100 kilometers (about 60 mi) off the southern coast of South Korea. It is the country's largest island, with an area of 1,845 square kilometres (712 sq mi). Jeju is also the site of South Korea's highest point: Hallasan, an extinct volcano, reaches 1,950 meters (6,398 ft) above sea level. The most eastern islands of South Korea include Ulleungdo and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean), while Marado and Socotra Rock are the southernmost islands of South Korea.

South Korea has 20 national parks and some popular nature places like Boseong Tea Field, Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Jeolla province.


Template:Climate chart South Korea has a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be bitterly cold, in Seoul, the average January temperature range is -7 °C to 1 °C (19 °F to 33 °F), and the average August temperature range is 22 °C to 30 °C (71 °F to 86 °F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months of June through September. The southern coast is subject to late summer typhoons that bring strong winds and heavy rains. The average annual precipitation varies from 1,370 millimeters (54 inches) in Seoul to 1,470 millimeters (58 inches) in Busan. There are occasional typhoons that bring high winds and floods. The government is concerned of the impact of global warming on the natural disasters.


Main article: Environment of South Korea

Cheonggyecheon is a major success in urban nature-friendly renewal.

Following the rapid industrialization, air pollution and water pollution, in particular in urban areas, rose rapidly. Government actions taken since the 1990s to improve the environment led to a rapid decrease of sulfur emissions,[37] though the continuing growth of traffic has led to increase of other pollutants. Despite its small size, South Korea is the ninth largest consumer of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. There are major issues with air and water pollution due to South Korea's high population density.[citation needed] Recently, though, there have been several initiatives (such as the restoration of Cheonggyecheon in central Seoul.[38]) to improve the environment in Korea.[citation needed] In mid-2008, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said the country intends to spend 194.4 billion won ($193 million) on technologies and projects, including solar, wind and biofuels, in 2008.[39]

South Korea is a member of numerous international environmental organisations and treaties, including Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity Treaty, Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling.[40]


Main article: Economy of South Korea

South Korea is the largest shipbuilder in the world, along with POSCO, the world's 2nd largest steel maker.

South Korea's GDP (nominal) growth from 1960 to 2007

South Korea's nominal GDP growth from 1960 to 2007, in billions of US dollars. South Korea's recent growth is often called the Miracle on the Han River.

Hyundai Genesis sedan NY

Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, the 2nd largest automaker in Asia and fifth largest in the world as of 2008.[41]

South Korea's transformation into a developed country during the latter half of the 20th century is often called the Miracle on the Han River, and South Korea is considered one of the "Four Asian Tigers".

Today, South Korea has an advanced economy and is a member of the OECD,[42] classified as a High-income economy by the World Bank and an Advanced economy by the IMF and CIA[43][44] in 2007, 2008. Its capital, Seoul, is consistently placed among the world's top ten financial and commercial cities.[45][46]

South Korea is regarded as a strong economy,[47] despite lacking natural resources and having the smallest territory among the G-20 major economies. The South Korean economy is the fourth largest in Asia and 13th largest in the world.[48] Like West Germany and Japan, rapid industrialization since the 1960s has made South Korea one of the world's top ten exporters. It is the seventh largest trading partner of the United States.[49] South Korea has the second highest savings rate in the developed world[50] and has the world's sixth biggest foreign exchange reserves.[51]

An extremely competitive education environment[52] and motivated workforce[53] are two key factors driving this knowledge economy. the country files the largest number of patents per GDP and R&D expenditure in the world.[54]

Many globally well-known South Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia, Hyundai Heavy Industries, LG, SK, and POSCO have rapidly grown to become world leaders in their respective industries. Samsung Group is the world's largest conglomerate[55] and a leading consumer electronics brand.[56] In 2006, Samsung Group alone would have been the world's 34th largest economy if ranked.[57] The Hyundai Kia Automotive Group is the second largest car company in Asia and one of the top five automakers in the world.[58] Hyundai Heavy Industries is the world's largest shipbuilder[59][60] and POSCO is the world's second largest steel maker.[61] South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilder,[62]and one of the world's top five automobile manufacturing nations,[63] and the sixth largest steel producer in the world.[64]

The new Lee Myung-bak administration has a stated goal of making South Korea's economic power and wealth match the G7, with a target of annual GDP growth of 7%, a GDP per capita of $40,000 and making South Korea the world's seventh largest economy by 2013.[65] President Lee describes himself as the CEO of "Korea Inc." and his macroeconomic policies are often called Mbnomics.[66] In 2008, Free Trade Agreements with the US (also known as KORUS FTA) and EU were carried out.[67]

In 2008, Korea's GDP (PPP) per capita was estimated at $27,646. [68]

High-tech industriesEdit

File:Touch-watch-phone 4 450.jpg

Samsung Group, the world's 12th largest company[70] and a global consumer electronics brand[71]

Korea has a highly developed high-tech infrastructure, with the world's highest broadband internet access per capita.[72]

In 2007, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked South Korea's IT industry competitiveness third in the world.[73] Korea's e-readiness was ranked 15th,[74] and e-Government readiness 6th[75] in 2008.

In consumer electronics, South Korea is the world's largest LCD, OLED and plasma display maker.[76] Both Samsung and LG are major makers of televisions,[77] and mobile phones.[78]

South Korea is also the world's leading memory chip producer and Samsung and Hynix are the world's second and sixth largest semiconductor companies in the world.[79] Samsung is also the world's largest maker of laser printers.[80] Samsung Techwin is the world's third largest maker of digital cameras.[81]

South Korea also exports radioactive isotope production equipment for medical and industrial use to countries such as Russia, Japan and Turkey.[82]

The government is also investing in the robotics industry, with the stated aim of becoming the "world's number 1 robotics nation" by 2025.[83][84] There are also plans to develop other sectors, including financial services, biotechnology, aerospace and entertainment industries.

Transportation and energyEdit

Main article: Transportation in South Korea
File:Incheon International Airpot (interesting architecture).jpg

The Express Bus Terminal station, Seoul Subway Line 9 has become a new landmark of Seoul.

South Korea has a technologically advanced transportation network consisting of high-speed railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that criss-cross the country. Korea Expressway Corporation operates the toll highways and service amenities en route.

Korail provides frequent train service to all major South Korean cities. Two rail lines, Gyeongui and Donghae Bukbu Line, to North Korea are now being reconnected. The Korean high-speed rail system, KTX, provides high-speed service along Gyeongbu and Honam Line. Major cities—including Seoul[4], Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju—have subway systems. Metropolitan Cities (gwangyeoksi, self-governing cities that are not incorporated into any province) have express bus terminals.

Construction of South Korea's largest airport, Incheon International Airport, was completed in 2001. By 2007, the airport was serving 30 million passengers a year [86]. The airport has been selected as the "Best Airport Worldwide" for four consecutive years since 2005 by Airports Council International [87]. Other international airports include Gimpo, Busan and Jeju. There are also seven domestic airports, and a large number of heliports [88].

Korean Air, founded in 1962, served 2,164 million passengers, including 1,249 million international passengers in 2008[89]. A second carrier, Asiana Airlines, established in 1988, also serves domestic and international traffic. Combined, South Korean airlines currently serve 297 international routes[90]. Smaller airliners, such as Hansung Airlines and Jeju Air, provide domestic service with lower fares.

South Korea is the world's sixth largest nuclear power producer and the second largest in Asia.[91] Nuclear power in South Korea supplies 45% of electricity production and research is very active with investigation into a variety of advanced reactors, including a small modular reactor, a liquid-metal fast/transmutation reactor and a high-temperature hydrogen generation design. Fuel production and waste handling technologies have also been developed locally. It is also a member of the ITER project.

Science and technologyEdit

Main article: Science and technology in Korea

Aerospace researchEdit

Main article: Korea Aerospace Research Institute
File:Korean astronaut-Yi Soyeon-02.jpg

South Korea has launched two satellites, Arirang-1 in 1999 and Arirang-2 in 2006, as part of its space partnership with Russia.[92]

Naro Space Center, the first spaceport of South Korea, was completed in 2008 at Goheung, Jeollanam-do. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle is planned to be launched from Naro in the summer of 2009.[93]

In April 2008, Yi So-yeon became the first Korean to fly in space, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-12.



Since the 1980s, the Korean government has actively invested in the development of a domestic biotechnology industry, and the sector is expected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2010.[94] Medical sector accounts for a large part of the production, including production of hepatitis vaccines and antibiotics.

Recently, research and development in genetics and cloning has received increasing attention, with the first successful cloning of a dog, Snuppy, and the cloning of two females of an endangered species of wolves by the Seoul National University in 2007.[95]

The rapid growth of the industry has resulted in significant voids in regulation and ethics,[96] however, as was highlighted by the scientific misconduct case involving Hwang Woo-Suk.



EveR-3, an android in traditional Korean dress Hanbok, capable of dancing and singing.

Robotics has been included in the list of main national R&D projects in Korea since 2003.[97] In 2009, the government announced plans to build robot-themed parks in Incheon and Masan with a mix of public and private funding.[98]

In 2005, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology developed the world's second walking humanoid robot, HUBO. A team in the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology developed the first Korean android, EveR-1 in May 2006. EveR-1 has been succeeded by more complex models with improved movement and vision. Next models are scheduled to be completed by 2010.


Main article: Education in South Korea
File:Korean pavillion.jpg

Education in South Korea is regarded as being crucial to one's success and competition is consequently very heated and fierce. In the most recent OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, South Korea came first in problem solving, first in reading, third in mathematics and nineteenth in science.[99]

A centralised administration in South Korea oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. South Korea has adopted a new educational program to increase the number of their foreign students through the year 2010. According to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology estimate, by that time, the number of scholarships for foreign students in South Korea will be doubled, and the number of foreign students will reach 100,000.[100] The school year is divided into two semesters, the first of which begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July, the second of which begins in late August and ends in mid-February.The schedules are not uniformly standardized and vary from school to school.


Main article: Demographics of South Korea

Most South Koreans live in urban areas, due to rapid migration from the countryside during the country's quick economic expansion in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.[101] The capital city of Seoul is also the country's largest city and chief industrial center. According to 2005 census, Seoul had a population of 9.8 million inhabitants, making it one of the most populated single cities in the world. Other major cities include Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.5 million), Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.4 million), Gwangju (1.4 million) and Ulsan (1 million).[102]

The population has also been shaped by international migration. Following the division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, about four million people from North Korea crossed the border to South Korea. This trend of net entry reversed over the next forty years due to emigration, especially to the United States and Canada. However, South Korea's burgeoning economy and democracy in the early and mid-1990s slowed the high emigration rates typical of the previous decades. The South Korea’s total population in 1960 was 25 million.[103] The current population of South Korea is roughly 49,540,000.[104]

South Korea is a homogeneous society with absolute majority of the population of Korean ethnicity.[105] Although small, the percentage of non-Koreans has been increasing. Officially, as of the summer of 2007, there are just over 1 million foreigners living in Korea. That number includes foreign residents, students, tourists and illegal immigrants. Among them, 104,749 people were married to Koreans, 404,051 were working in Korea and 225,273 were illegal immigrants.[106] There are 31,000 US military personnel.[107]Another notable group is women from Southeast Asia who comprised 41% of new marriages with Korean farmers in 2006. [108]

South Korea's birthrate has fallen to approximately 2 births per 1000 annually, and it has the world's lowest fertility rate[109]. South Korea's population is expected to shrink from 2019[110]. Life expectancy in 2008 was 79.10 years[111].


Main article: Religion in South Korea

Template:Bar box

Seokguram Buddha

The Seokguram Grotto in Bulguksa temple, UNESCO World Heritage Site

As of 2005, approximately 46.5% of the South Korean population express no religious preference.[112] Of the rest, most are Christian or Buddhist; according to the 2005 census, 29.2% of the population at that time was Christian (18.3% professed to being Protestants and 10.9% Catholics), and 22.8% were Buddhist.[113][114] Approximately half of Koreans (49.3% in 1995[115]) are unaffiliated with any religion, and the remaining portion (1.3% in 1995[115]) affiliated with other religions, including Islam and various new religious movements such as Jeungism, Daesunism, Cheondoism and Wonbuddhism.

Throughout history, numerous religions—including Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Korean Shamanism—have existed in Korea, and South Korea remains religiously diverse.[113][116][117] The relationship between numerous religions in Korea today has been described as one of "peaceful coexistence",[118] and government guarantees freedom of religion.[119]

Korean shamanism is the original religion in South Korea. It is however interesting to note that religion in South Korea and in particular, the dominant religious faiths of Buddhism and Christianity have imbibed much from Confucianism as practiced in South Korea. Korean Confucianism had been the state religion of the Joseon Dynasty which ruled for 500 years. More than being a religion in South Korea, Confucianism and its inherent values have actually become a way of life for the South Korean people.[120]


The Myeongdong Cathedral.

There are approximately 13.7 million Christians[119] (8.6 million Protestants and 5.1 million Catholics[113]) in the country today. The largest Christian church in South Korea, Yoido Full Gospel Church, is located in Seoul and has approximately 780,000 members (2003 estimate). Including Yoido Full Gospel, 11 of the world's 12 largest churches are located in Seoul.[citation needed] Roman Catholicism has been the fastest growing religion in South Korea since the late 1980s.[121] South Korea is also the second largest missionary-sending nation on earth, after the US.[122]

Buddhism was introduced to Korea from China in the year 372.[123] According to the national census as of 2005, South Korea has over 10.7 million Buddhists.[113][119][124] Today, about 90% of Korean Buddhists belong to Jogye Order. Most of the National Treasures of South Korea are Buddhist artifacts. Along with Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism was also a state religion during the periods from Three Kingdoms of Korea to Goryeo before suppression under the Joseon Dynasty.[125]

There are an estimated 45,000 Muslim Koreans, in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries,[126] particularly Bangladesh and Pakistan.[127]

A growing number of South Koreans adhere to new religious movements. Among these are Cheondoism (0.1%), Jeungism (0.07%) and Daesunjinrihoe.[112] These religions have developed as a reaction to the influence of Christianity and Western culture in Korean society. The exact figures of the amount of followers of these new religions remain controversial.

Largest citiesEdit

Main article: Cities of South Korea

The figures below are the 2007 estimates for the ten largest cities populations within administrative city limits; the figures below only include long-term residents. Template:Largest cities of South Korea


Main article: Culture of Korea

Deoksugung Palace in Seoul.

South Korea shares its traditional culture with North Korea, but the two Koreas have developed distinct contemporary forms of culture since the peninsula was divided in 1945. The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs.[128] The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities, especially the capital Seoul, with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements.


In addition to domestic consumption, South Korean mainstream culture, including televised drama, films, and popular music, also generates significant exports to Asia, South America and Eastern Europe in a phenomenon known as the Korean wave, or hallyu (한류).

Until the 1990s, trot dominated the Korean popular music. The emergence of the group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 marked a turning point for Korean popular music, K-Pop, as the group incorporated elements of American popular musical genres of rap, rock, and techno into its music. Dance and ballad oriented acts have become dominant in the Korean popular music scene, though trot is still popular among older Koreans. Many K-Pop stars and groups are also well known abroad.

Since the success of the film Shiri in 1999, Korean film has become more popular in South Korea and abroad. Domestic film has a dominant share of the market, partly due to the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year.

Korean television shows, especially the short form dramatic mini-series called "dramas", have also become popular outside of Korea, becoming another driving trend for the Korean Wave in Asia. The trend has generated internationally known Korean stars and has boosted the image of Korean popular culture. The dramas are popular in Asia, Australia and America, especially among Asian-American communities. The stories have a wide range, but the most prominent among the export dramas have been romance dramas, such as Autumn Fairy Tale, Winter Sonata, All About Eve, and historical/fantasy dramas, such as Dae Jang Geum, The Legend and Goong.


Main article: Korean cuisine
File:Soju jinro gfdl.jpg

Bulgogi, a traditional Korean barbecue made of either beef or pork

Korean cuisine, hanguk yori (한국요리, 韓國料理), or hansik (한식, 韓食), has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Ingredients and dishes vary by province. There are many significant regional dishes that have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Meals consumed both by the royal family and ordinary Korean citizens have been regulated by a unique culture of etiquette.

Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables, fish and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes, banchan (반찬), which accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Every meal is accompanied by numerous banchan. Kimchi, a fermented, usually spicy vegetable dish is commonly served at every meal and is one of the best known Korean dishes. Korean cuisine usually involves heavy seasoning with sesame oil, doenjang (된장), a type of (fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (고추장), a hot pepper paste.

Soups are also a common part of a Korean meal and are served as part of the main course rather than at the beginning or the end of the meal. Soups known as guk (국) are often made with meats, shellfish and vegetables. Similar to guk, tang (탕) has less water, and is more often served in restaurants. Another type is jjigae (찌개), which is similar to western stew, and is typically heavily seasoned with chili pepper and served boiling hot.

Technology cultureEdit

In recent years online games have become a significant part of Korean culture. StarCraft, the PC real-time strategy game is by far the most popular televised game in South Korea. Game tournaments, recorded in places like the COEX Mall are often broadcast live on TV stations such as MBCGame and Ongamenet. Professional StarCraft players can command considerable salaries in South Korea as members of pro-gaming teams that are sponsored primarily by cell phone providers. PC games are usually played in PC bangs which are basically internet cafes, dedicated to LAN games of popular titles like Kart Rider, Maple Story, World of Warcraft, Mabinogi and Lineage.

South Korean corporations Samsung and LG are the second and third largest cell phone companies in the world, and South Korean consumers change their phones on average every 11 months. An estimated 90% of South Koreans own mobile phones and use them not only for calling and messaging but also for watching Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) or viewing websites. Over one million DMB phones have been sold and providers like SK Telecom and KTF provide coverage throughout many parts of major cities.

Kim 2008SA by Dave Carmichael

Kim Yun-A, winner of the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships


Main article: Sport in South Korea
Exhibicion dollyo chagui con apoyo

A Taekwondo practitioner demonstrating a round house kick

The martial art taekwondo originated in Korea. In the 1950s and 60s, modern rules were standardised, and Taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000. Other Korean martial arts include taekkyeon, hapkido, tang soo do, kuk sool won, kumdo and subak.

In the 2002 FIFA World Cup, jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, the national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the semi-finals.

In 1988, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics in Seoul, coming fourth with 12 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 11 bronze medals. South Korea regularly performs well in archery, shooting, table tennis, badminton, short track speed skating, handball, hockey, freestyle wrestling, baseball, judo, taekwondo, and weightlifting. South Korea also hosted the Asian Games in 1986 and 2002, and will host again in 2014. It also hosted the Asian Winter Games in 1999, the Winter Universiade in 1997 and the Summer Universiade in 2003.

Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 and has since become the most popular spectator sport in South Korea.[129] The first South Korean professional sports league was the Korea Baseball Organization, established in 1982. During the 2006 World Baseball Classic, South Korea finished third. In the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, South Korea won the gold medal.

In 2007, South Korea hosted a cycling competition called Tour de Korea. It was the first international cycling competition in South Korea in 10 years. In 2010 South Korea will host their first Formula One race to be staged at the Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, about 400 kilometres (250 mi) south of Seoul.


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