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Korea Country Note
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Official Name:

Republic of Korea (ROK) (South Korea).


34-38  North Latitude & 126 -132 East Longitude.


The country is basically mountainous with a central hill range sloping away towards the seas on either side. Only 30% of land is flat. There are no vast plains in the country. The slopes on the east coast are steep, while those on the west coast are gentle. The highest peak in South Korea is not more than 2000 meters.


China, North Korea, Russia and Japan. Land border is 238 km with North Korea. Its coastline is 2413 km.


Seoul (Population: 10.2 million) (2012)

Other Major Cities:

Busan (3.55 million), Incheon (2.81 million), Daegu (2.51 million), Dajeon (1.52 million), Gwangju (2.66 million), Ulsan (1.14 million) (2012)


South Korea comprises seven metropolitan cities including Seoul and nine provinces.

The seven cities - Seoul, Pusan, Taegu, Inchon, Kwangju, Taejon and Ulsan - are accorded the same status as that of the larger and more populous provinces.  Metropolitan city is divided into “ku”(ward) and these are further sub-divided into “dong”(neighbourhood), the lowest administrative unit.

The nine provinces are North Chungcheong, South Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, North Gyeonsang, South Gyeonsang, South Gyeongsang, Jeju, North Jeolla, South Jeolla.

A province is divided into cities and “gun” (county). A city has many “dong” while a “gun” has many “up”(township) and “myon”(village)

National Day:

15 August      (Independence/Liberation Day)

17 July            (Constitution Day)



National Flag:




The Korean Flag is called TAEGUKKI. White part represents the land. The circle in the centre of the flag is divided into two equal parts. The upper red section represents the positive cosmic forces of Yang. Conversely, the lower blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of Yin. The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement and balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded four trigrams one in each corner. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.

National Emblem:
National Emblem ROK

The National Emblem of South Korea adopted in 1963 consists of the ‘taeguk' symbol bordered by five petals and a ribbon bearing the inscription “The Republic of Korea" in Hangul characters.

National Flower:
National Flower ROK

The National flower of Korea is the Mugunghwa or Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). The flower’s symbolic significance stems from mugunghwa’s root word, “mugung” meaning immortality.


99,678 sq km (approximately 12% larger than West Bengal) largely hilly & mountainous mainly North to East. Along the Southern and Western coasts the mountains descend gradually towards broad coastal plains. Most of rivers have their tributaries on the North and East sides and flow into the Yellow and South Seas. Concentrated for the most part off the Southern coast are upwards of 3,000 islands of various sizes.


The Korean people are descendants of several Mongol tribal groups who migrated around 4,000 B.C. from what are now Siberia and Manchuria. They eventually became a homogeneous race, independent of their neighbours, with unique cultural traits distinct from the Chinese and Japanese.
Two common observations about Korean people are their endurance and dynamism. Harsh weather, gruelling negotiations and after-hours socializing are all taken in stride in a 'work hard, play hard' culture. The Korean sense of humour is readily apparent not only in daily interactions but also in the nation's rich folk art. Favourite songs, often sung at the end of parties or dinners, have lilting sad melodies, pointing to the strong element of melancholy contained in the Korean character. Koreans tend to vent their feelings and emotions - be it exuberance or anger, delight or frustration.

Koreans are one ethnic family speaking one language. In the seventh century AD, they were politically unified for the first time by the Shilla Kingdom (57 BC - AD 935) and subsequently achieved a great cultural flowering. Koreans struggled successfully for millennia to maintain their cultural and political identity despite the influence of neighbouring China and the more recent aggressive inclinations of the Japanese. They are a proud people with one of the longest national histories in the world. Their life expectancy for males is 75.84 years, females 82.49 years (2011).


Total population                  :  50.95 million (2012)
Foreign residents                 :  1.45 million
Birth Rate                              :  9.6 per 1000 people
Death rate                              :  5.3 per 1000 people
Population Growth rate      :  0.45%  (2012)
Life Expectancy                   :  79.3 yrs 


Out of the registered religions, Buddhism and Confucianism were dominant in the past and have shaped both the way of life and the attitudes of Koreans since the three dynasties (Shilla, Koryo and Chosun from 233 B.C. to 1910 A.D.). Christianity has developed a vast following since its introduction in the late 18th century and its influence is now being felt throughout society. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the ROK constitution. According to 2005 census, only 49.5% of Koreans follow a specific religious faith.
Christians : 26.3%
Buddhists : 23.2%
No Professed Faith : 51.5%

Political Sys :

The Constitution of the Republic of Korea calls for a liberal democratic political system. Its principles are based on the sovereignty of the people, with all the authority of state emanating from its citizens.  President is elected to a single  5-year term by direct popular vote. Division of power among the executive, legislature (unicameral National Assembly),and judiciary branches


On 25th Feb 2013, Ms Park Geun -hye was sworn in as 18th and  the first ever female  President of Republic of Korea.


Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly, which is composed of 300 members elected for a 4-year term. 246 members are elected by direct vote while the remaining are distributed in proportion to the number of votes secured by the political parties.  The elections to the new National Assembly took place on 11 April 2012. The Saeunuri Party (New Frontier Party) won a majority in the 300- seat parliament. The Saeunuri Party (NFP) won 152 seats in the National Assembly while the United Democratic Party (UDP) now the Democratic Party (DP) won 127 seats.  Among other parties, United Progressive Party (UPP) won 13 and Liberation Forward Party won 05 seats and independent candidates 03 seats respectively.


Korea is a democratic republic with power centralized in a strong executive president. Regional autonomy has been established since 1995. President is elected by a direct popular vote for a single five-year term and cannot be re-elected.  The President performs his executive functions through the State Council, or the Cabinet made up of 15 to 30 members, whom he appoints upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister.  However, the President is solely responsible for all the important government policies.  The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by the National Assembly.  Important Leaders as on  07 Jun  2013 are :-

President of Korea  :  Ms Park Geun-hye
Prime Minister :  Mr Chung Hongwon
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mr Yun Byung-se
Minister of National Defence:  Mr Han Min-koo,
(Ex- Chairman JCS & Chief
of Staff ROK Army)
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff : General Choi, Yoon-Hee
Chief of Staff,  ROK Army        : General Kwon Oh-Sung
Chief of Staff , ROK Navy        : Admiral  Hwang Ki-chul
Chief  of Staff ROK  Air Force  : General Choi Chakyu




Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Republic of Korea has achieved rapid economic growth, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “Miracle on the Han River”. The areas of strongest development are shipbuilding, semiconductors, consumer electronics, and automobile industry. Three decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Today its GDP per capita is comparable to the economies of the European Union.  This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government/ business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labour effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. Korea became a member of the OECD in 1996. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed certain structural weaknesses in South Korea’s development model, including high debt/ equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. By 1999, GDP growth had recovered, reversing the substantial decline of 1998. Korea is                       now focusing on knowledge based economic development    model with emphasis on bio-technology, nano-technology, IT, environmental technology etc. It faces challenges of rapidly aging population, inflexible labour market, and overdependence on manufacturing exports to drive economic growth.

Exports                            :   US$ 559.7 billion (2013)
Imports:                           :   US$ 515.5 billion (2013)
GDP                                :   US$ 1.198 trillion (2013)
GDP (PPP)                     :   US$1.666 trillion (2013)
GDP (Per capita)            :    US$ 24,300 (2013)
GDP (Per capita PPP)    :    US$ 33,200 (2013)
Growth Rate                   :    3% (2013)
Major Items of Export.  Semiconductors, wireless tele-communications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals.
Major Items of Import. Petroleum and related products, Electrical machinery, Chemical and related products, Iron and Steel.
Public Debt                        :   36.2% of GDP (2013)
External Debt                     :   US$ 416.6 billion (Dec 2013)
Currency Unit                   :   US $1 = Won 1026.97 (July 2014)
Forex & Gold Reserves      :   US $346.4 billion (Dec 2013)
Language              :   Korean (Hangul)
Weather                :   Temperature in winter:  – 15°C to 3°C
In Summer            :   Hot & humid touching   35°C
Time Difference    :   IST + 3 ½ hrs (GMT +9)

July 2014

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