The Republic of Korea is a small country on the far eastern edge of Asia. Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic activity, culture, and arts. Korea was colonized by Japan in the early 20th century and later had to endure the Korean War (1950-53), but it has achieved amazing economic growth in a short period, dubbed “the Miracle on the Han River.”
Today, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. It hosted the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music are attracting many audiences in Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the “Korean Wave.” Korea’s new standing in the international community was highlighted in 2010 with the nation becoming the first Asian country to chair the G20 and host the G20 Seoul Summit.
With a population of about 50 million and GDP in the range of US$1.1975 trillion as of 2013, Korea has a huge market. Its GDP per capita is about $23,837 and the population has very strong purchasing power. In fact, the high-end Korean market is recognized as the global trend-setter. Its response to new products affects many companies’ marketing strategies for not only China, Japan and ASEAN member nations, but also for Europe and other parts of the world.
Northeast Asia has now become one of the three global economic pillars, along with the United States and Europe. Geographically, Korea is situated at the center of air and maritime transportation networks in Northeast Asia. There are 51 cities with a 1 million-plus population within a 3-hour flight from Seoul. Also, Korea, Japan and China boast a combined GDP of about $15 trillion. Their total population exceeds 1.53 billion, or 22% of the global population, and their trade volume is $6.62 trillion, or about 18% of the global trade volume as of 2012.
Korea has signed free trade agreements with the EU and the United States, and they went into effect in 2011 and 2012, respectively. As of 2013, Korea has 47 FTAs in effect, including those with ASEAN, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), India and Peru, while FTA negotiations are underway with China and Japan. The economies of the countries with which Korea has signed FTAs account for 61% of the total global economy and are home to 36.2% of the world population.
South Korea is a leader in the area of information and communications technology. ICT industry-related products, account for over 33% of Korea’s total exports. Today, Korean semiconductors, mobile handsets, TFT-LCDs and other items have become the most coveted in the global market because of their high quality. The e-commerce turnovers also showed growth between 2001 and 2010, from 108.9 trillion won (US$84.4 billion dollars) to 746.3 trillion won (US$645.5 billion dollars)
Republic of Korea (South Korea)
Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)
Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)
Seoul (10.2 million) (2012)
Won (US$1 = 1,127 won) (2012)
50.95 million (South Korea) (2012)
* Foreign Residents (including short-term sojourners) : 1.4 million
* Cities by Population: Seoul (10.2 million),
Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.8 million),
Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.5 million),
Gwangju (1.5 million), Ulsan (1.1 million) (2012)
38.9 years (2012)
Economically Active Population
25.5 million (2012)
Population Increase Rate
Male, 77.7 years; female, 84.5 years (2011)
A 2005 census showed one half of the population practice religion. Among them, 10,726,463 Buddhists, 8,616,438 Protestants, and 5,146,147 Catholics comprise the three dominant religions.
Republic with a president elected to a single 5-year term by direct popular vote. Division of power among the executive, legislature (unicameral National Assembly), and judiciary branches
Park Geun-hye since 2013
Universal at 19 years of age
Presidential: every 5 years
National Assembly: every 4 years
Local Government: every 4 years
Gross Domestic Product
US$ 1,129 billion (2012)
Per Capita GNI
US$ 22,708 (2012)
GDP Growth Rate: 2.0% (2012)
Foreign Exchange Reserves: US$ 317 billion (2012)
US$548 billion (2012)
US$520 billion (2012)
Major Industrial Products
Semiconductors, automobiles, ships, consumer electronics, mobile telecommunications, equipment, steel, and chemicals.