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South Korea Country Guide

Explore South Korea in Asia

South Korea with the capital city Seoul is located in Asia (Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea). It covers some 98,480 square kilometres (slightly larger than Indiana) with 48,422,644 citizens.

Interactive map of South Korea

The topography includes mostly hills and mountains with wide coastal plains in west and south. The average density of population is approximately 492 per km². The notable climate conditions in South Korea can be described as temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter. Possible natural disasters include occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods or low-level seismic activity common in southwest.

To reach someone in South Korea dial +82 prior to a number. There are 19,289,000 installed telephones. And there are 47,944,000 registered mobile phones. The cellular networks commonly support frequencies of 3G MHz. Websites registered in this country end with the top level domain ".kr". If you want to bring electric equipment on your trip (e.g. laptop power supply), note the local power outlet of 220V - 60Hz.

About the flag and history of South Korea

South Korea Flag Icon

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.

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), U.S. 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 South Korea's first civilian president. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. LEE Myung-bak (2008-2013) pursued a policy of global engagement , highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010 and the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012. South Korea also secured a non-permanent seat (2013-14) on the UN Security Council and will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. President PARK Geun-hye took office in February 2013 and is South Korea's first female leader. Serious tensions with North Korea have punctuated inter-Korean relations in recent years, including the North's sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 and its artillery attack on South Korean soldiers and citizens in November 2010. In January 2013, assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.

Geography Quick-Facts

SummaryContinent: Asia
Neighbours: North Korea
Capital: Seoul
Size98,480 square kilometers (km² or sqkm) or 38,023 square miles (mi² or sqmi)
slightly larger than Indiana
CurrencyName Won, Currency Code:KRW
Country Top Level Domain (cTLD).kr
Telephone Country Prefix+82
Mobile Phone Connections47,944,000
Landline Phone Connections19,289,000

Country Position in World Rankings

Information about single country attributes and how these compare against the rest of the world. The information below is compiled with data from 2013. As such, it may differ a bit to the Information above in the text (which is from 2010).


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Area99,720 (sq km)109

People and Society

Value nameValueWorld Rank
Population48,955,203 25
Population growth rate0.18 (%)177
Birth rate8.33 (births/1,000 population)218
Death rate6.50 (deaths/1,000 population)151
Maternal mortality rate16.00 (deaths/100,000 live births)143
Infant mortality rate4.01 (deaths/1,000 live births)200
Life expectancy at birth79.55 (years)42
Total fertility rate1.24 (children born/woman)219
Health expenditures6.90 (% of GDP)85
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate0.10 (%)138
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS9,500 100
HIV/AIDS - deaths500 88
Obesity - adult prevalence rate7.70 (%)139
Education expenditures5.10 (% of GDP)74
Unemployment, youth ages 15-249.60 (%)108


Value nameValueWorld Rank
GDP (purchasing power parity)1,640,000,000,000 13
GDP - real growth rate2.00 (%)134
GDP - per capita (PPP)32,800 43
Labor force25,500,000 25
Unemployment rate3.20 (%)26
Distribution of family income - Gini index41.90 51
Investment (gross fixed)25.20 (% of GDP)49
Taxes and other revenues21.70 (% of GDP)150
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)0.60 (% of GDP)34
Public debt33.70 (% of GDP)105
Inflation rate (consumer prices)2.20 (%)41
Central bank discount rate1.25 (%)131
Commercial bank prime lending rate5.77 (%)144
Stock of narrow money392,000,000,000 14
Stock of broad money1,596,000,000,000 12
Stock of domestic credit1,438,000,000,000 14
Market value of publicly traded shares994,300,000,000 15
Industrial production growth rate1.70 (%)121
Current account balance3,140,000,000 34
Exports552,600,000,000 8
Imports514,200,000,000 8
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold326,900,000,000 9
Debt - external413,400,000,000 28
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home203,500,000,000 22
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad327,500,000,000 18


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Electricity - production459,500,000,000 (kWh)12
Electricity - consumption455,100,000,000 (kWh)10
Electricity - installed generating capacity80,590,000 (kW)14
Electricity - from fossil fuels69.90 (% of total installed capacity)106
Electricity - from nuclear fuels22.00 (% of total installed capacity)8
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants2.00 (% of total installed capacity)136
Electricity - from other renewable sources1.30 (% of total installed capacity)69
Crude oil - production19,990 (bbl/day)73
Crude oil - imports2,590,000 (bbl/day)6
Refined petroleum products - production2,830,000 (bbl/day)8
Refined petroleum products - consumption2,260,000 (bbl/day)11
Refined petroleum products - exports907,100 (bbl/day)8
Refined petroleum products - imports753,900 (bbl/day)9
Natural gas - production539,300,000 (cu m)72
Natural gas - consumption45,900,000,000 (cu m)20
Natural gas - imports46,830,000,000 (cu m)9
Natural gas - proved reserves5,748,000,000 (cu m)87
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy579,000,000 (Mt)8


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Telephones - main lines in use29,468,000 11
Telephones - mobile cellular52,507,000 27
Internet hosts315,697 62
Internet users39,400,000 11


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Airports114 50
Railways3,381 (km)51
Roadways103,029 (km)40
Waterways1,600 (km)50
Merchant marine786 14


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Military expenditures2.70 (% of GDP)47

Data based on CIA facts book 2010 & 2013, wikipedia, national statistical offices and their census releases

List of current world heritage sites

Changdeokgung Palace Complex
In the early 15th century, the King Taejong ordered the construction of a new palace at an auspicious site. A Bureau of Palace Construction was set up to create the complex, consisting of a number of official and residential buildings set in a garden ...
Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites
The prehistoric cemeteries at Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa contain many hundreds of examples of dolmens - tombs from the 1st millennium BC constructed of large stone slabs. They form part of the Megalithic culture, found in many parts of the world, b ...
Gyeongju Historic Areas
The Gyeongju Historic Areas contain a remarkable concentration of outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art, in the form of sculptures, reliefs, pagodas, and the remains of temples and palaces from the flowering, in particular between the 7th and 1 ...
Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks
The Temple of Haeinsa, on Mount Gaya, is home to the Tripitaka Koreana , the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, engraved on 80,000 woodblocks between 1237 and 1248. The buildings of Janggyeong Panjeon, which date from the 15th century, were ...
Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong
Founded in the 14th-15th centuries, Hahoe and Yangdong are seen as the two most representative historic clan villages in the Republic of Korea. Their layout and location - sheltered by forested mountains and facing out onto a river and open agricultu ...
Hwaseong Fortress
When the Joseon King Jeongjo moved his father's tomb to Suwon at the end of the 18th century, he surrounded it with strong defensive works, laid out according to the precepts of an influential military architect of the period, who brought together th ...
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava wa ...
Jongmyo Shrine
Jongmyo is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets beari ...
Namhansanseong was designed as an emergency capital for the Joson dynasty (1392–1910), in a mountainous site 25 km south-east of Seoul. Built and defended by Buddhist monk-soldiers, it could accommodate 4,000 people and fulfilled important administra ...
Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty
The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty form a collection of 40 tombs scattered over 18 locations. Built over five centuries, from 1408 to 1966, the tombs honoured the memory of ancestors, showed respect for their achievements, asserted royal authority ...
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple
Established in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, the Seokguram Grotto contains a monumental statue of the Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, a ...