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East & Southeast Asia :: Korea, South
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Korea, South
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Location of Korea, South
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Introduction ::Korea, South
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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 14 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. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Dae-jung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il. In October 2007, a second North-South summit took place between the South's President ROH Moo-hyun and the North Korean leader. Harsh rhetoric and unwillingness by North Korea to engage with President LEE Myung-bak following his February 2008 inauguration has strained inter-Korean relations.
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Geography ::Korea, South
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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: 108
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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8,780 sq km (2003)
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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
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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 ::Korea, South
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48,508,972 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
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0-14 years: 16.8% (male 4,278,581/female 3,887,516)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 17,897,053/female 17,196,840)
65 years and over: 10.8% (male 2,104,589/female 3,144,393) (2009 est.)
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total: 37.3 years
male: 36 years
female: 38.5 years (2009 est.)
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0.266% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
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8.93 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 212
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5.94 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
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-0.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
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urban population: 81% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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at birth: 1.07 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 (2009 est.)
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total: 4.26 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 204
male: 4.49 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
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total population: 78.72 years
country comparison to the world: 40
male: 75.45 years
female: 82.22 years (2009 est.)
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1.21 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 218
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less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151
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13,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 93
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fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
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noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
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homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
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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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Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
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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: 15 years (2007)
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4.6% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 85
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Government ::Korea, South
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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: Cheju-do, Cholla-bukto (North Cholla), Cholla-namdo (South Cholla), Ch'ungch'ong-bukto (North Ch'ungch'ong), Ch'ungch'ong-namdo (South Ch'ungch'ong), Kangwon-do, Kyonggi-do, Kyongsang-bukto (North Kyongsang), Kyongsang-namdo (South Kyongsang)
metropolitan cities: Inch'on-gwangyoksi, Kwangju-gwangyoksi, Pusan-gwangyoksi, Soul-t'ukpyolsi, Taegu-gwangyoksi, Taejon-gwangyoksi, Ulsan-gwangyoksi
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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 nine times; current constitution approved on 29 October 1987
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combines elements of continental European civil law systems, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought; has not accepted compulsory ICJ 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 CHUNG Un-chan (since 30 September 2009)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
elections: president elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held 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; 243 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 56 elected by proportional representation; to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 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, Pro-Park Alliance 8, DLP 5, CKP 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-kabi]; Grand National Party or GNP [CHUNG Mong-joon]; Liberty Forward Party or LFP [LEE Hoi-chang]; Pro-Park Alliance or PPA [SUH Choung-won]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [MOON Kook-hyun]
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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, APT, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA, MIGA, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNMOGIP, UNOMIG, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, 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 Kathleen STEPHENS
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
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Economy ::Korea, South
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Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world 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. In 2008, its GDP per capita was roughly the same as that of the Czech Republic and New Zealand. Initially, this success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. 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, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, then recovered by 9% in 1999-2000. Korea adopted numerous economic reforms following the crisis, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms had stalled. Led by consumer spending and exports, growth in 2002 was an impressive 7% despite anemic global growth. Between 2003 and 2007, growth moderated to about 4-5% annually. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. In 2008, inflation increased in the face of rising oil and food prices before easing in the fourth quarter. Korea was hit hard by the global financial turmoil that began in September 2008. Stock prices fell by more than 40% for the year and the value of the won fell by approximately 26%. Korean GDP shrank in the fourth quarter and GDP growth for the year was just 2.2%. The Korean government adopted several measures to combat the credit crunch and stimulate the economy.
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$1.335 trillion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 14
$1.306 trillion (2007 est.)
$1.243 trillion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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$947 billion (2008 est.)
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2.2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
5.1% (2007 est.)
5.2% (2006 est.)
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$27,600 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
$27,100 (2007 est.)
$25,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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agriculture: 3%
industry: 39.5%
services: 57.6% (2008 est.)
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24.35 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
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agriculture: 7.2%
industry: 25.1%
services: 67.7% (2007)
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3.2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 37
3.3% (2007 est.)
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15% (2003 est.)
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lowest 10%: 2.7%
highest 10%: 24.2% (2007)
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31.3 (2007)
country comparison to the world: 105
35.8 (2000)
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27.1% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
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revenues: $227.5 billion
expenditures: $216.7 billion (2008 est.)
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24.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
21.3% of GDP (2004 est.)
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4.7% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
2.5% (2007 est.)
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1.75% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 131
3.25% (31 December 2007)
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7% (31 December 2008)
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$80.66 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 17
$92.59 billion (31 December 2007)
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$478 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 10
$541.7 billion (31 December 2007)
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$937 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 14
$1.061 trillion (31 December 2007)
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$494.6 billion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 16
$1.124 trillion (31 December 2007)
$835.2 billion (31 December 2006)
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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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2.2% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
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440 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
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385.1 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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30,440 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
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2.175 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
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800,000 bbl/day
country comparison to the world: 22
note: exports consist of oil derivatives (gasoline, light oil, and diesel), not crude oil (2008 est.)
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2.982 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
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0 bbl
country comparison to the world: 190
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443 million cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 68
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34.76 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
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0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 80
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36.21 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
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50 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64
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$-6.349 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163
$5.954 billion (2007 est.)
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$433.5 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
$379 billion (2007 est.)
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semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals
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China 25.5%, US 10.9%, Japan 6.4% (2008)
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$427.4 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
$349.6 billion (2007 est.)
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machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics
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China 19.2%, Japan 15.1%, US 8.8%, Saudi Arabia 6.1% (2008)
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$201.2 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$262.2 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
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$381.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
$383.2 billion (31 December 2007)
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$124.2 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 27
$122 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
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$74.6 billion (30 June 2008)
country comparison to the world: 26
$82.1 billion (2006)
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South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar - 1,101.7 (2008 est.), 929.2 (2007), 954.8 (2006), 1,024.1 (2005), 1,145.3 (2004)
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Communications ::Korea, South
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21.325 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 13
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45.607 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 23
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general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies
domestic: fixed-line and mobile-cellular services wide 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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AM 96, FM 322, shortwave 1 (2008)
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57 (plus 103 cable operators and 119 relay cable operators) (2008)
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.kr
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301,270 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 54
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37.476 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 10
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Transportation ::Korea, South
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116 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 53
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total: 72
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 22
1,524 to 2,437 m: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 12
under 914 m: 22 (2009)
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total: 44
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 42 (2009)
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516 (2009)
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gas 1,423 km; refined products 827 km (2008)
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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) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 50
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total: 812
country comparison to the world: 14
by type: bulk carrier 212, cargo 226, carrier 2, chemical tanker 133, container 80, liquefied gas 33, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 26, petroleum tanker 61, refrigerated cargo 16, roll on/roll off 9, specialized tanker 4, vehicle carrier 5
foreign-owned: 31 (China 1, Japan 20, Norway 2, UK 1, US 7)
registered in other countries: 363 (Belize 1, Cambodia 22, China 1, Cyprus 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 3, Kiribati 2, Liberia 3, Malta 2, Marshall Islands 10, Mongolia 1, Netherlands 1, Panama 303, Russia 1, Singapore 3, Tuvalu 1, unknown 2) (2008)
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Inch'on, P'ohang, Pusan, Ulsan
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Military ::Korea, South
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Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2009)
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20-30 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; conscript service obligation - 24-28 months, depending on the military branch involved (to be reduced to 18 months beginning 2016); 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; some 4,000 women serve as commissioned and noncommissioned officers, approx. 2.3% of all officers (2008)
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males age 16-49: 13,691,809
females age 16-49: 13,029,859 (2008 est.)
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males age 16-49: 10,991,263
females age 16-49: 10,356,604 (2009 est.)
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male: 371,728
female: 322,605 (2009 est.)
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2.7% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 58
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Transnational Issues ::Korea, South
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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 Limiting 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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The online Factbook is updated bi-weekly. ISSN 1553-8133
For additional information on government leaders in selected foreign countries, go to World Leaders.