Geographic and Governmental Profile of South Korea

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 (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 under the PARK Chung-hee regime 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 and the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012, as well as the forthcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games. 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.
Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Geographic coordinates
37 00 N, 127 30 E
Continent / Subcontinent
99,720 sq km
96,920 sq km
2,800 sq km
Area - comparative
slightly larger than Indiana
Land boundaries
238 km
border countries:
North Korea 238 km
2,413 km
Maritime claims
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
temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point:
Halla-san 1,950 m
Natural resources
coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
Land use
arable land:
permanent crops:
81.41% (2005)
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Irrigated land
8,320 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
69.7 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
18.59 cu km/yr (36%/16%/48%)
per capita:
389 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
Halla (elev. 1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries
Environment - current issues
air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
Environment - international agreements
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
Geography - note
strategic location on Korea Strait
Country name
conventional long form:
Republic of Korea
conventional short form:
South Korea
local long form:
local short form:
Government type
geographic coordinates:
37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference:
UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions
9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city, and 1 special self-governing city
Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)
metropolitan cities:
Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan
special city:
special self-governing city:
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved 29 October 1987
Legal system
mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
International law organization participation
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
19 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
head of government:
Prime Minister KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)
State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
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%
Legislative branch
unicameral National Assembly or Gukhoe (299 seats; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
last held on 11 April 2012 (next to be held in April 2016)
election results:
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NFP 152, UDP 127, UPP 13, LFP 5, independents 3
Judicial branch
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)
Political parties and leaders
Democratic United Party or DUP [LEE Han-gil] (formerly the Democratic Party or DP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [LEE Jung-hee]; Future Hope Alliance or FHA [ROH Cheoi-rae] (formerly Pro-Park Alliance); Liberty Forward Party or LFP [SHIM Dae-pyeong]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [HAN Myeon-hee]; Saenuri (New Frontier) Party (formerly Grand National Party or GNP) or NFP [HWANG Woo-yea]; United Progressive Party [YU Si-min, LEE Jung-hee, SHIM Sang-jung
Political pressure groups and leaders
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
International organization participation
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
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador CHOI Young-jin
2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
[1] (202) 939-5600
[1] (202) 387-0205
consulate(s) general:
Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Sung Y. KIM
32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address:
US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
[82] (2) 397-4114
[82] (2) 738-8845
Flag description
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
National symbol(s)
taegeuk (yin yang symbol)
National anthem
"Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
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
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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