Form of Government: Republic
Area: 100 219 sq km
Population: 51 780 579 inhab. (estimate 2020)
Density: 516.67 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 38° - 33° N; long. 126° - 132° E
Capital: Seoul (capital) 9 668 465 inhab. (2020); Seoul 25 514 000 inhab. (2016), metropolitan area
Currency: South Korean won (100 chun)
Human development index: 0.916 (rank: 23)
President: Moon Jae-in (Democratic Party), elected 9 May 2017
Prime Minister: Kim Boo-kyum (Democratic Party), since 14 May 2021
National Assembly: seats based on the elections of 15 April 2020: Democratic Party (liberal), 180; United Future Party (conservative), 103; Justice Party, 6; others, 6; independents, 5
Internet: www.kostat.go.kr (Statistics Korea)
Member of APEC, EBRD, OAS observer, OECD, UN, WTO
International license plate code ROK
International dialling code 0082
Travel vaccinations requirement malaria prophylaxis (low risk confined to some areas for which it is recommended or advised)
Electricity (Voltage) 220
Driving side rigth
Internet code .kr
DST not applied
Annual average temperature (°C) Seoul 11.3
Average temperature in January/July (°C) Seoul -4.5/25
Daily sunshine hours in June/December (average) Seoul 7/5
Annual average precipitation (mm) Seoul 1257
Days of rainfall (annual average) Seoul 80
Politics and current affairs
The popularity of President Moon sank with the discovery of a speculative scheme in a state-owned company. This influenced the Seoul and Busan mayoral elections (7 April 2021), which were lost by Democratic Party candidates. President Moon subsequently carried out a government reshuffle.
South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean peninsula with North Korea to the north. The Sea of Japan (East Sea) lies off its east coast and the Yellow Sea off its west coast. To the south, the Korean Strait separates it from the Japanese archipelago. The country is predominantly mountainous in the east and centre. The west and south are mainly flat. Many islands lie off its coasts. It has a temperate climate, with mild winters and hot, humid summers.
South Korea claims sovereignty over the Dokdo Islands, disputed by Japan (which calls them the Takeshima Islands).
Formerly (from 1910) under Japanese sovereignty, the area currently known as South Korea was occupied in 1945 by American troops. The country became independent on 15 August 1948, although it continued to claim territorial rights over the whole Korean peninsula. In 1950, war broke out with North Korea, supported by armed troops from China. On 27 July 1953, the armistice of Panmunjom confirmed that the two Korean states would remain divided by the line of the 38th parallel. Supported by the USA, the government was controlled until 1960 by the authoritarian regime of Rhee Syngman. In 1979, after the assassination of President Park Chung-hee (in office since 1961), there were large popular demonstrations demanding that political freedom should be restored.
The Constitution of 27 October 1987 and the election of Roh Tae-woo as president marked the beginning of the process of restoring democracy to its institutions. In the 1992 elections, for the first time, a civilian, Kim Young-sam was elected. On 13-15 June 2000, the leaders of the two Koreas met for the first time at Pyeongyang, restoring relations between the two states, which then proceeded to waver between phases of collaboration and considerable tension. The President of the Republic, who has extensive powers, is elected by direct suffrage for five years and cannot be re-elected immediately. It is the President who appoints the Prime Minister. Legislative power lies in the hands of the National Assembly (300 members elected for four years).
Military service is compulsory. The country hosts about 40 US military bases supporting a force of approximately 28 500.
The legal system is based on a combination of components of European Continental Civil Law, British Common Law and Chinese notions. The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court, the members of which are appointed by the head of state.
|Seoul||9 668 465||inhab.||2020|
|Busan||3 391 946||inhab.||2020|
|Seoul (metropolitan area)||25 514 000||inhab.||2016|
|Population by age and gender (% - 2020)|
North Korean citizens who flee to South Korea automatically become South Korean citizens. Many South Koreans (nearly 500 000) live in Japan.
The solid resumption of exports (especially cars and microelectronics) in the second half of 2020 drove economic recovery. Increased unemployment, particularly serious among the young, still has to be reabsorbed. The concentration of production in major conglomerations (chaebol) harms the vitality of the economy and contributes to the rise in youth unemployment. However, some major conglomerations are at the centre of corruption investigations that have upset the leadership.
|Agricultural prod. index (2004-06=100)||102.8||index||2016|
|Agricultural prod. index (2014-16=100)||100.49||index||2019|
|Active population||28 012 270||units||2020|
|Active population, Females||42.9||%||2020|
|Unemployment rate, Females||43.7||%||2020|
|Expenses||517 781 000||M LCU||2020|
|Revenues||446 628 000||M LCU||2020|
|Currency in circulation||147 401.828||BN LCU||2020|
|International reserves||443 462.938||M US$||2020|
Rice is the most commonly grown cereal (especially in the western regions); fruit and vegetables, soya and sweet potatoes are grown to feed the local population. Tobacco, sesame and peanuts are also common. Another typical crop is ginseng, the root of which is used in the pharmaceutical sector.
Livestock and fishing.
Livestock farming is not important whereas fish farming (seaweeds and molluscs, especially oysters) and fishing contribute to the economy. Busan, Mokpo and Incheon are the main fishing ports.
|cereals, total||5 260.077||1000 t||2019|
|roots and tubers, total||939.351||1000 t||2019|
|cabbages||2 573.532||1000 t||2019|
|carrots and turnips||73.833||1000 t||2019|
|beans, dry||7.73||1000 t||2019|
|peas, dry||0.007||1000 t||2019|
|castor oil seed||0$||1000 t||2017|
|seed cotton||0.01||1000 t||2017|
|hemp tow waste||0.026||1000 t||2019|
|fruits, total||3 135.245||1000 t||2019|
|citrus fruits||646.1||1000 t||2019|
|citrus fruits, nes||1.1||1000 t||2019|
|sweet potatoes||21.775||1000 ha||2019|
|carrots and turnips||2.183||1000 ha||2019|
|beans, dry||6.765||1000 ha||2019|
|peas, dry||0.005||1000 ha||2019|
|castor oil seed||0$||1000 ha||2017|
|seed cotton||0.009||1000 ha||2018|
|hemp tow waste||0.016||1000 ha||2019|
|kiwi fruit||0.344||1000 ha||2019|
|citrus fruits||21.851||1000 ha||2019|
|citrus fruits, nes||0.188||1000 ha||2019|
|timber||4 577 000||m³||2019|
|cattle||3 645.19||1000 heads||2019|
|cattle and buffaloes||3 645.19||1000 heads||2019|
|pigs||11 279.894||1000 heads||2019|
|equines, total||24.918||1000 heads||2019|
|birds||181 571||1000 heads||2019|
|silk, raw||0.003||1000 t||2018|
|crustaceans and molluscs||711 847.132||t||2019|
|freshwater fishes||17 595||t||2019|
The country has insufficient mineral and energy resources to meet its internal demand, especially in terms of the highly developed industrial system. Coal is the most important mineral mined (at Jangseong, Dogye and Hwaseong) but also iron (at Gangwon Province), gold (at Haenam), silver, lead and zinc. A project has recently been under way to reopen the tungsten-molybdenum deposits in Sangdong (south-east of Seoul), inactive since 1993. In 2010, the discovery of a vast ore of rare earth in the Gangwon Province was announced.
Energy and industry.
To reduce its heavy reliance on foreign electrical power, South Korea has opted to produce nuclear power (it has 24 reactors in operation and 4 under construction), which provide about 26% of the national electrical energy requirement in 2019.
The most consolidated industrial sectors are metalworking and iron and steel (at Pohang, Kwangyang, Incheon and Janghang), dominated by the giant POSCO (Pohang Iron and Steel Company), and the chemical and petrochemical sector (at Daesan, Incheon, Ulsan and Yeosu). The shipbuilding industry, very developed even if on the decline for many years (construction yards in Changwon, Geoje, Ulsan, and Yeongam), and the automotive industry provide strong exports. The electronics sector is very dynamic and highly diversified, producing radio and television equipment, telecommunications equipment, computers and semiconductors. Other important industries are textiles (at Busan, Masan, Daegu, Daejeon and Incheon), cement and paper.
|coal||1 019||1000 t||2020|
|coal, total||1 019||1000 t||2020|
|iron ore||575||1000 t||2020|
|dolomite||2 593||1000 t||2016|
|- thermal||376 421.12||M kWh||2019|
|- nuclear||138 809||M kWh||2019|
|- thermal||86 362.99||1000 kW||2018|
|- nuclear||23 094||1000 kW||2019|
|total net generation||544 790.65||M kWh||2019|
|total installed capacity||128 066.99||1000 kW||2018|
|cars||3 211 706||no.||2020|
|watches and clocks||250 978||no.||2015|
|air conditioners||4 593 667||no.||2015|
|car navigation systems||2 414 118||no.||2015|
|bitumen||4 489||1000 t||2018|
|petrol||38 297.4||1000 t||2014|
|caustic soda||2 642.2||1000 t||2016|
|fertilizers||2 142||1000 t||2020|
|carpets||15 231.1||1000 m²||2015|
|cotton fabrics||14.6||M m²||2015|
|beer of barley||2 004.2||1000 t||2018|
|coconut oil||0.19||1000 t||2018|
|cigarettes||126 614||M units||2011|
|cigars and cigarettes||126 614||M units||2011|
|chemical pulp||454||1000 t||2019|
|chemi-mechanical pulp||510||1000 t||2019|
|cement||47 518||1000 t||2020|
|sheet glass - t||1 364.7||1000 t||2007|
|chemicals production||49 327.639||M US$||2018|
|food, beverages and tobacco production||30 374.793||M US$||2018|
The country imports large amounts of energy, as well as steel, semi-finished products, electronic material, chemicals and textiles. The main exports are finished industrial products of various kinds. Its main trading partners are China, Japan and the USA.
Main exports (M US$ - 2017) electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 86 106, electrical and electronic equipment 57 952, machinery and home appliances 55 477, ships and boats 40 992, cars 38 832, iron and steel 35 426, petroleum products 34 815, plastics 31 486, chemicals 30 644, optical and electro-medical appliances 29 024, vehicles and parts thereof 23 091, telecommunications equipment 15 653, computers and accessories 13 859, cosmetics 4 974, synthetic and artificial fibres and yarns 4 550, refined copper 4 428, gold and jewels 4 232, tyres 3 438
Finance and banking.
The Bank of Korea acts as the central bank. There are large privately owned banking groups at the national level, as well as regional institutes and a state-owned development bank. The stock exchange at Busan is one of the most important in Asia.
|manufactures||87.398||% of goods exports||2019|
|fuels||7.78||% of goods exports||2019|
|China||132 555||M US$||2020|
|United States||74 395||M US$||2020|
|China||108 869||M US$||2020|
|United States||57 765||M US$||2020|
Tourism. The main tourist attractions are the mountains, the historical sites and the island of Jeju. Many of the tourists come from China and Japan.
|Expenditures||34 844||M US$||2019|
|Number of arrivals||17 503 000||units||2019|
The maritime transport network is very important on account of the large size of the merchant fleet, especially in the field of container transport, and the great capacity of South Korean ports (including that of Donghae). The national and international air transport system is highly developed. Nearly 2000 km of high-speed railway lines are active.
|Civil aviation, km flown||406 500 000||km flown||2004|
|Civil aviation, passengers carried||92 434.1||1000 units||2019|
|Broadband subscribers||427.644||per 1000 pop.||2019|
|Computers||576||per 1000 pop.||2008|
Social and welfare
Education and research.
Primary education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 12. Secondary education, divided into three years of middle school and three years of secondary school, lasts for six years. There are numerous academic institutions and advanced schools of specialization, most of which are private.
The national social security system provides retirement pensions, invalidity pensions and pensions for surviving dependents. There is also an insurance plan for the unemployed.
|Expected years of schooling||16.494||years||2018|
|Students, primary level||2 719 358||units||2018|
|Students, secondary level||2 893 979||units||2018|
|Social protection spending||21.9||% of total expenses||2010|
|Social protection spending||12.2||% of GDP||2019|
|Hospital beds||12.43||per 1000 pop.||2018|
|Physicians||2.39||per 1000 pop.||2018|
|HIV||-0.1||% of adults||2011|
|Research and development spending||4.52||% of GDP||2018|
|Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking||100||%||2019|
|Access to electricity||100||%||2019|