Korea, South

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2011
Flag of Korea, South
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Location of Korea, South
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Map of Korea, South
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Photos of Korea, South
 
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OF KOREA, SOUTH
 

Introduction

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An 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 17 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. President LEE Myung-bak has pursued a policy of global engagement since taking office in February 2008, highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010. 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.
 
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Geography

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Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
 
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37 00 N, 127 30 E
 
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total: 99,720 sq km
country comparison to the world: 109
land: 96,920 sq km
water: 2,800 sq km
 
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slightly larger than Indiana
 
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total: 238 km
border countries: North Korea 238 km
 
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2,413 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: not specified
 
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temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
 
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mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
 
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lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
 
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coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
 
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arable land: 16.58%
permanent crops: 2.01%
other: 81.41% (2005)
 
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8,320 sq km (2008)
 
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69.7 cu km (1999)
 
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total: 18.59 cu km/yr (36%/16%/48%)
per capita: 389 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
volcanism: Halla (elev. 1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries
 
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air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
 
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party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
 
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strategic location on Korea Strait
 
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People and Society

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noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
 
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homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
 
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Korean, English (widely taught in junior high and high school)
 
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Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
 
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48,754,657 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
 
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0-14 years: 15.7% (male 3,980,541/female 3,650,631)
15-64 years: 72.9% (male 18,151,023/female 17,400,809)
65 years and over: 11.4% (male 2,259,621/female 3,312,032) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 38.4 years
male: 37 years
female: 39.8 years (2011 est.)
 
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0.23% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
 
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8.55 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 216
 
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6.26 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
 
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0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
 
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urban population: 83% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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SEOUL (capital) 9.778 million; Busan (Pusan) 3.439 million; Incheon (Inch'on) 2.572 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.458 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.497 million (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.069 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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18 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 130
 
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total: 4.16 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 199
male: 4.37 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 79.05 years
country comparison to the world: 41
male: 75.84 years
female: 82.49 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.23 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 218
 
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6.5% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 90
 
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1.967 physicians/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 64
 
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12.28 beds/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 3
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 88% of population
total: 98% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 12% of population
total: 2% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population (2008)
 
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less than 0.1% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
 
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9,500 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
 
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fewer than 500 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 90
 
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3.2% (2001)
country comparison to the world: 64
 
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4.2% of GDP (2007)
country comparison to the world: 95
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 99.2%
female: 96.6% (2002)
 
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total: 17 years
male: 18 years
female: 16 years (2008)
 
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total: 9.8%
country comparison to the world: 104
male: 11.9%
female: 8.5% (2009)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Republic of Korea
conventional short form: South Korea
local long form: Taehan-min'guk
local short form: Han'guk
abbreviation: ROK
 
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republic
 
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name: Seoul
geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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9 provinces (do, singular and plural) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural)
provinces: Chungcheong-bukto (North Chungcheong), Chungcheong-namdo (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongsang-bukto (North Gyeongsang), Gyeongsang-namdo (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeolla-bukto (North Jeolla), Jeolla-namdo (South Jeolla)
metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Seoul, Ulsan
 
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15 August 1945 (from Japan)
 
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Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
 
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17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved 29 October 1987
 
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mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
 
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has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
 
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19 years of age; universal
 
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chief of state: President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
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elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held on 19 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
election results: LEE Myung-bak elected president on 19 December 2007; percent of vote - LEE Myung-bak (GNP) 48.7%; CHUNG Dong-young (UNDP) 26.1%); LEE Hoi-chang (independent) 15.1; others 10.1%
 
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unicameral National Assembly or Kukhoe (299 seats; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 9 April 2008 (next to be held in April 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - GNP 172, UDP 83, LFP 20, PPA 8, DLP 5, RKP 1, independents 9
 
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Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by the president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)
 
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Democratic Party or DP [CHUNG Sye-kyun] (formerly the United Democratic Party or UDP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [KANG Ki-kap]; Grand National Party or GNP [Hong Joon-pyu]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [LEE Hoi-chang]; New Progressive Party or NPP [ROH Hoe-chan]; Pro-Park Alliance or PPA [SUH Choung-won]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [SONG Yong-o]
 
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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
 
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ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador HAN Duck-soo
chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 387-0205
consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Sung Y. KIM
embassy: 32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 738-8845
 
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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
 
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taegeuk (yin yang symbol)
 
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name: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
note: adopted 1948, well known by 1910; both North Korea and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics
 
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Economy

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Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized 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, and currently is among the world's 20 largest economies. 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. Korea adopted numerous economic reforms following the crisis, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Growth moderated to about 4-5% annually between 2003 and 2007. With the global economic downturn in late 2008, South Korean GDP growth slowed to 0.2% in 2009. In the third quarter of 2009, the economy began to recover, in large part due to export growth, low interest rates, and an expansionary fiscal policy, and growth exceeded 6% in 2010. The South Korean economy's long term challenges include a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth.
 
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$1.459 trillion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
$1.375 trillion (2009 est.)
$1.373 trillion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$1.007 trillion (2010 est.)
 
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6.1% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
0.2% (2009 est.)
2.3% (2008 est.)
 
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$30,000 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 45
$28,300 (2009 est.)
$28,400 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 2.6%
industry: 39.3%
services: 58.2% (2010 est.)
 
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24.75 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
 
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agriculture: 7.3%
industry: 24.3%
services: 68.4% (2010 est.)
 
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3.7% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
3.7% (2009 est.)
 
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15% (2006 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 24.2% (2007)
 
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31.4 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 110
35.8 (2000)
 
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28.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 37
 
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revenues: $235.1 billion
expenditures: $222.2 billion (2010 est.)
 
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23.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131
 
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1.3% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
 
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22.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 104
23.5% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 106
2.8% (2009 est.)
 
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1.25% (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 112
1.75% (31 December 2008)
 
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5.508% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
5.65% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$377 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
$334.4 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.346 trillion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 13
$1.132 trillion (31 December 2008)
 
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$1.066 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
$1 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.089 trillion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 16
$836.5 billion (31 December 2009)
$494.6 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish
 
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electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
 
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16.6% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
 
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417.3 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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402 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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0 kWh (2010)
 
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0 kWh (2010)
 
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48,400 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 63
 
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2.251 million bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
 
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907,100 bbl/day
country comparison to the world: 22
note: exports consist of oil derivatives (gasoline, light oil, and diesel), not crude oil (2009 est.)
 
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3.074 million bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
 
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0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151
 
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542 million cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 68
 
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42.69 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
 
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0 cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
 
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43.58 billion cu m (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
 
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50 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 65
 
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$36.35 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
$32.79 billion (2009 est.)
 
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$464.3 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
$358.2 billion (2009 est.)
 
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semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
 
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China 27.9%, US 10.2%, Japan 5.8% (2010)
 
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$422.4 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$320.4 billion (2009 est.)
 
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machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
 
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China 17.9%, Japan 16.2%, US 10.1%, Saudi Arabia 5.2%, Australia 4.9% (2010)
 
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$291.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$270 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$398 billion (30 June 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
$380.9 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
 
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$127 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 29
$117.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$115.6 billion (31 December 2009)
country comparison to the world: 25
$74.6 billion (30 June 2008)
 
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South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
1,153.77 (2010)
1,276.93 (2009)
1,101.7 (2008)
929.2 (2007)
954.8 (2006)
 
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Communications

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28.543 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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50.767 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 26
 
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general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies
domestic: fixed-line and mobile-cellular services widely available with a combined telephone subscribership of roughly 140 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce
international: country code - 82; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 66
 
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multiple national television networks with 2 of the 3 largest networks publicly operated; the largest privately-owned network, Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS), has ties with other commercial TV networks; cable and satellite TV subscription services are available; publicly-operated radio broadcast networks and a large number of privately-owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations (2010)
 
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.kr
 
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291,329 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 58
 
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39.4 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 11
 
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Transportation

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116 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 52
 
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total: 72
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 21
1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 22 (2010)
 
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total: 44
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 42 (2010)
 
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510 (2010)
 
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gas 2,139 km; refined products 864 km (2010)
 
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total: 3,381 km
country comparison to the world: 51
standard gauge: 3,381 km 1.435-m gauge (1,843 km electrified) (2008)
 
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total: 103,029 km
country comparison to the world: 40
paved: 80,642 km (includes 3,367 km of expressways)
unpaved: 22,387 km (2008)
 
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1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 49
 
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total: 819
country comparison to the world: 14
by type: bulk carrier 201, cargo 246, carrier 5, chemical tanker 132, container 69, liquefied gas 40, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 21, petroleum tanker 67, refrigerated cargo 15, roll on/roll off 9, vehicle carrier 9
foreign-owned: 33 (China 9, France 1, Japan 15, US 8)
registered in other countries: 438 (Cambodia 11, Ghana 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 3, Indonesia 1, Kiribati 2, Liberia 1, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 25, North Korea 1, Panama 366, Philippines 1, Russia 1, Singapore 9, Tuvalu 1, unknown 6) (2010)
 
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Incheon (Inch'on), Pohang (P'ohang), Busan (Pusan), Ulsan, Yeosu (Yosu)
 
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Military

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Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2011)
 
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20-30 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; conscript service obligation - 21 months (Army, Marines), 23 months (Navy), 24 months (Air Force); 18-26 years of age for voluntary military service; women, in service since 1950, admitted to 7 service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps; HIV-positive individuals are exempt from military service (2011)
 
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males age 16-49: 13,185,794
females age 16-49: 12,423,496 (2010 est.)
 
Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
males age 16-49: 10,864,566
females age 16-49: 10,168,709 (2010 est.)
 
Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
male: 365,760
female: 321,225 (2010 est.)
 
Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
2.7% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 52
 
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Transnational Issues

Field info displayed for all countries in alpha order.
Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limit Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954
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