FACTS AND FIGURES
• Country Name: Republic of Korea
• Capital City: Seoul (10.1 million)
• National flag: Taegeukgi
• National flower: Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)
• Currency: won
• Language: Korean (Written form: Hangeul)
• Location: Strategically located at the crossroads of Northeast Asia.
Korea lies between Japan, the Russian Far East and China.
• Territory: 223,098km2 (South Korea: 99,678km2)
• Highest mountains: Baekdusan 2744m, Hallasan 1950m
• Longest rivers: Amnokgang 790km, Nakdonggang 521.5km, Dumangang 521km, Hangang 481.7km
• Major cities: Seoul (10.1 million), Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.6 million), Daegu (2.5 million),
Dajeon (1.5 million), Gwangju (1.4 million), Ulsan (1.1 million)
• Climate: Temperate with four distinct seasons
• Population: 48.46 million (2007) ※ Foreign residents: 1.1 million
• Median Age: 36.1 years (2007)
• Active population: 24.2 million (2007)
• Population increase rate: 0.33% (2007)
• Life Expectancy: Males 75.7 years, females 82.4 years (2006)
• Religion: A 2005 census showed half of the population actively practices religion. Among this group,
Buddhism (43.0%), Protestantism (34.5%) and Catholicism (20.6%) comprise the three
• Political parties: Grand National Party, United Democratic Party, Liberal Forward Party,
Democratic Labor Party, Pro-Park Geun-hye Alliance, Renewal of Korea Party
• AID: Korea contributed $455 million in Official Developmental Aid (ODA) in 2006.
• Peacekeeping: Korea began participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations with the dispatch
of a battalion of military engineers to Somalia in 1993. It has since joined peacekeeping efforts
in India, Pakistan, Liberia, Burundi, Sudan, Georgia, East Timor, Lebanon and Afghanistan and
sent the Zaytun forces to Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.
• Political System: Democracy with president elected to a single 5-year term by direct popular vote.
Division of power among the executive, legislature (unicameral National Assembly)
• President: Lee Myung-bak since 2008
• Suffrage: Universal at 19 years of age
- Presidential: every 5 years
- National Assembly: every 4 years
- Local Councils: every 4 years
• Gross Domestic Product: $969.9 billion (2007)
• Per Capita GNI: $20,045 (2007)
• GDP Growth Rate: 5.0 percent (2007)
• Gross Domestic Product: $969.9 billion (2007)
• Per Capita GNI: $20,045 (2007)
• Foreign Exchange Reserves: $262.2 billion (2007)
• Exports: $371.5 billion (2007)
• Major Industrial Products: Semiconductors, automobiles, ships, consumer electronics,
mobile telecommunication equipment, steel and chemicals
• FTAs: Korea has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore,
the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), ASEAN and the U.S. - 16 countries in all.
Currently, negotiations with the EU, Canada and India are under way with the aim of concluding
these FTAs negotiations by the end of 2008.
• World Heritage
- Haeinsa Temple Janggyeongpanjeon,
the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (1995)
- Jongmyo Shrine (1995)
- Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (1995)
- Changdeokgung Palace Complex (1997)
- Hwaseong Fortress (1997)
- Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000)
- Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000)
- Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (2007)
• Intangible Cultural Heritage
- The Royal Ancestral Ritual at the Jongmyo Shrine and its Music (2001)
- The Pansori Epic Chant (2003)
- The Gangneung Danoje Festival (2005)
• Memory of the World Register
- The Hunminjeongeum Manuscript (1997)
- Joseonwangjosillok, the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (1997)
- Seungjeongwonilgi, the Diaries of the Royal Secretariat (2001)
- Buljo Jikjisimcheyojeol (vol. II), the second volume of
The Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings (2001)
- Printing woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana and miscellaneous Buddhist scriptures (2007)
- Uigwe, The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty (2007)
orea is situated on the Korean Peninsula, which spans 1,100 kilometers north to south. The Korean Peninsula lies on the northeastern section of the Asian continent, where Korean waters are joined by the western-most parts of the Pacific. The peninsula shares its northern border with China and Russia. To the east is the East Sea, beyond which neighboring Japan lies. To the west is the Yellow Sea. In addition to the mainland, Korea includes some 3,200 islands.
orea encompasses a total of 223,098 square kilometers ― almost the same size as the United Kingdom or Ghana. Some 45 percent of this area, or 99,678 square kilometers, is considered cultivable area, excluding reclaimed land areas. Mountainous terrain accounts for some two-thirds of the territory like Portugal, Hungary or Ireland.
he Taebaeksan Mountain Range runs the full length of the east coast, where the lashing waves of the East Sea have carved out sheer cliffs and rocky islets. The western and southern slopes are rather gentle, forming plains and many offshore islands honeycombed with inlets.
he peninsula features so many scenic mountains and rivers that Koreans have often likened their country to a beautifully embroidered brocade. The highest peak is on Mt. Baekdusan in North Korea along the northern border facing China. It rises 2,744 meters above sea level and is an extinct volcano with a large crater lake named Cheonji. The mountain is regarded as an especially important symbol of the Korean spirit and is mentioned in Korea's national anthem.
onsidering its territorial size, Korea has a relatively large number of rivers and streams. These waterways played crucial roles in shaping the lifestyle of Koreans and in the nation's industrialization. The two longest rivers in North Korea are the Amnokgang River (Yalu, 790 kilometers) and the Dumangang River (Tumen, 521 kilometers). These rivers originate from Mt. Baekdusan and flow to the west and the east, respectively. They form the peninsula's northern border.
n the southern part of the peninsula, the Nakdonggang River (521.5 kilometers) and the Hangang River (481.7 kilometers) are the two major waterways. The Hangang River flows through Seoul, the capital of Korea, and serves as a lifeline for the heavily concentrated population in the central region of modern Korea, just as it did for the people of the ancient kingdoms that developed along its banks.
urrounding the peninsula on three sides, the ocean has played an integral role in the lives of the Koreans since ancient times, contributing to the early development of shipbuilding and navigational skills.
iracle on the Hangang: "Miracle on the Hangang" is a catchphrase used to describe the period of rapid economic growth that took place in South Korea following the Korean War.
orea rapidly recovered from the economic storm that began in late 1997. This crisis, which roiled markets all across Asia, had threatened Korea's remarkable economic achievements. However, thanks to the faithful implementation of an IMF agreement, the Korean Government's strong resolve for reform, and successful negotiation of foreign debt restructuring with creditor banks, the nation rebounded and is now stronger than ever economically. Since the onset of the crisis, Korea began rapidly integrating itself into the world economy. The goal of the nation is to overcome problems rooted in the past by creating an economic structure suitable for an advanced economy.
orea, once known to be one of the world's poorest agrarian societies, has undertaken economic development in earnest since 1962. In less than four decades, it achieved what has become known as the "Miracle on the Hangang River"―an incredible process that dramatically transformed the Korean economy while marking a turning point in Korea's history.
n outward-oriented economic development strategy, which used exports as the engine of growth, contributed greatly to the radical economic transformation of Korea. Based on such a strategy, many successful development programs were implemented. As a result, from 1962 to 2007, Korea's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from US$2.3 billion to US$969.9 billion, with its per capita GNI soaring from $87 to about $20,045. These impressive figures clearly indicate the magnitude of success that these economic programs have brought about.
ajor import items include industrial raw materials such as crude oil and natural minerals, general consumer products, foodstuffs and goods such as machinery and electronic and transportation equipment.
orea developed rapidly from the 1960s, fueled by high savings and investment rates, and a strong emphasis on education. The nation became the 29th member country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996.
* GDP Growth [Unit: US$ billion]
* Per Capita Growth [Unit: US$]
* Source: The Bank of Korea
* Source: The Bank of Korea
ith a history as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Korea is working to become the focal point of a powerful Asian economic bloc during the 21st century. The Northeast Asian region commands a superior pool of essential resources that are the necessary ingredients for economic development. These include a population of 1.5 billion people, abundant natural resources, and large-scale consumer markets.
f the three basic elements of life ― house, clothing and food ― the change in dietary habits has most significantly affected Koreans.
ice still remains the staple of most Koreans, but among the younger generations, many prefer Western-style food.
ice has been usually accompanied by various side dishes, mostly seasoned vegetables, soup, pot stew, and meat.
traditional Korean meal is not complete without kimchi, a mixture of various pickled vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, radish, green onion and cucumber. Certain types of kimchi are made spicy with the addition of red chili pepper powder, while others are prepared without red chili peppers or are soaked in a tasty liquid. However, garlic is always used in kimchi to add to its flavor.
n late November or early December, Korean families used to prepare enough kimchi to last the long winter. The kimchi was stored in large clay jars partially buried to maintain temperature and retain flavor.
n modern Korea, housewives often don't have time to make kimchi or the outdoor space needed to store large amounts. But kimchi is still a vital part of the Korean lifestyle: companies making the fermented dish and others selling special kimchi refrigerators enjoy brisk sales. Baechu Kimchi and Bulgogi, Korea's most popular beef dish.
n addition to kimchi, doenjang (soybean paste), with its anti-cancer attributes, has attracted the attention of modern-day nutritionists. Koreans used to make doenjang at home by boiling yellow beans, drying them in the shade, soaking them in salty water, and fermenting them in sunlight. However, only a few families go through this process anymore; the majority buy factory-made doenjang.
mong meat dishes, seasoned bulgogi (usually beef) and galbi (beef or pork ribs) are the most favored by both Koreans and foreigners.
Traditional full-course meal
Baechu Kimchi (left) and Bulgogi, Korea's most popular beef dish (right)