South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, country in northeastern Asia that occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea is bounded on the north by North Korea; on the east by the Sea of Japan; on the southeast and south by the Korea Strait, which separates it from Japan; and on the west by the Yellow Sea. It has a total area of about 38,023 sq. mi., including numerous offshore islands in the south and west, the largest of which is Cheju (area, 1829 sq. km/706 sq. mi.). The state of South Korea was established in 1948 following the post-World War II partitioning of the peninsula between the occupying forces of the United States in the south and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the north. The capital and largest city of South Korea is Seoul.
In contrast to North Korea, South Korea is relatively poor in mineral resources. The principal resources are coal (mostly anthracite), iron ore, and graphite. Other minerals include gold, silver, copper, lead, tungsten, zinc, and uranium. Reserves of natural gas have been discovered offshore. These minute resources are not as depended upon by the people of South Korea as in the North. The north is heavy in mining these resources because they have a large surplus of them, and the north is not; they have moved on and found other economical niches.
The population of South Korea (1995 estimate) is about 45,182,000 people. The country's estimated population density of 1188 per sq mi is one of the highest in the world. The majority of the population lives in the southern and western coastal areas. The annual rate of increase has dropped steadily from more than 3 percent in the late 1950s to 0.8 percent in the mid-1990s. Urbanization of the country has proceeded rapidly since the 1960s, with substantial rural to urban migration; approximately 78 percent of the population is now classified as urban. Since the establishment of North Korea, some 4 million immigrants have crossed the border to South Korea. This increase has been partly offset by emigration from South Korea, especially to Japan and the United States.
The country's chief industrial center is Seoul (population, 1990, 10,612,577). Other major cities include Pusan (3,798,113), the principal seaport; Taegu (2,229,040), center of the silk industry; Inch'ôn (1,817,919), the major port on the Yellow Sea; and Kwangju (1,139,003), an ancient commercial and administrative center.
South Korea's economy, traditionally based on agriculture, has, since the early 1960s, undergone an extraordinarily rapid industrialization; the gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by more than 9 percent yearly between the 1960s and the early 1990s. A series of five-year economic plans begun in 1962 have concentrated on the development of manufacturing, much of it oriented toward exports. Economic aid, especially from the United States and Japan, was important to the economic growth of the country, which in the span of a generation grew from one of the world's poorest to a mid-ranking industrial power. In the early 1990s estimated annual national budget figures showed revenues and expenditures balanced at $48.4 billion.
In the early 1990s the total labor force was estimated at 19.8 million. Of this figure, some 15 percent were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 33 percent in industry; and 52 percent in services. The principal labor organization is the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, with a membership of more than 1.8 million.
Land distribution programs were carried out after World War II (1939-1945). With 1.6 million farms, the average cultivated land area for each is 1.3 hectares (3.2 acres). Agricultural methods remain largely traditional and unmechanized. About 21 perceent of the land is arable, and nearly all of this land is under cultivation. The chief crops in the early 1990s were rice (5.7 million metric tons per year), the principal food crop; onions (810,000), potatoes (726,000); sweet potatoes (315,000); barley (315,000); maize (92,000); and cucumbers, cabbages, and tomatoes (together totaling 567,000). An important development has been the great expansion in the output of fruit, notably apples, melons, peaches, and pears. Other crops include soybeans, cotton, hemp, and silk. The estimated livestock population in the early 1990s was 5.5 million pigs, 2.5 million cattle, and 500,000 goats.
Forestry and Fishing
The forestry industry is small; roundwood removals in the early 1990s were about 6.5 million cu m (about 230 million cu ft) per year. Since the late 1960s South Korea has become one of the world's leading fishing nations, with a modern fleet of more than 780 deep-sea vessels. The ports of Ulsan and Masan have been developed as deep-sea fishing bases with fish-processing plants. The annual catch (which included pollock and oysters) in the early 1990s was some 3.3 million metric tons.
South Korea does not have extensive mineral resources. Annual output of anthracite coal was 12 million metric tons in the early 1990s; zinc ore output was about 43,800 metric tons. Other minerals exploited were graphite, iron ore, lead, tungsten, gold, silver, and kaolin (a fine clay).
The division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945 created two unbalanced economic units. The north held most of the natural resources and heavy industries developed during occupation by the Japanese; the south contained most of the agricultural resources and a large labor pool. Industrial development in the south concentrated initially on light manufacturing of export-oriented items, especially in labor-intensive industries such as textiles and apparel, footwear, and foodstuffs. Beginning in the early 1970s, however, emphasis was placed on heavy industry. Manufacturing is dominated by chaebol, large conglomerate companies with greatly diversified interests. Major manufactures in the early 1990s were electrical machinery, transportation equipment such as automobiles and ships, chemical products, textiles, iron and steel, and food products. The annual output of industrial products included passenger cars (1.5 million), trucks (300,500), merchant ships (5.4 million gross deadweight tons), television sets (16 million), fertilizer (831,100 metric tons), woven cotton fabrics (479.5 million sq m/5.2 billion sq ft), and pig iron (21.9 million metric tons).
About 54 percent of South Korea's electric power in the early 1990s came from conventional thermal facilities, 36 percent from nuclear installations, and the remaining 10 percent from hydroelectric plants. Installed electricity-generating capacity in the early 1990s was 27 million kilowatts. Annual output of electricity was some 105 billion kilowatt-hours.
A well-developed highway system connects the major urban centers. The country has about 63,201 km (about 39,273 mi) of roads, including 1551 km (964 mi) of expressway. The state-owned railroad system consists of some 4137 km (some 2571 mi) of track. The country's chief ports include Pusan, Inch'ôn, Mokp'o, and Kunsan, and its merchant fleet numbers about 2140 vessels. Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines provide both domestic and foreign service.
Mass media have assumed large importance since the 1950s. In the early 1990s about 44 million radios and 9.1 million television sets were operating in South Korea. National daily newspapers number 23.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency in South Korea is the won (806.8 won equal U.S.$1; 1994). The Bank of Korea is the bank of issue.
Following the disruption of trade during the Korean War (1950-1953) and its aftermath, exports increased at the remarkable annual rate of 27.2 percent from 1965 to 1980 and 14.7 percent from 1980 to 1988. Major imports include industrial machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemical products, transportation equipment, raw materials (such as wood and raw cotton), and electronic components. Exports include electrical machinery, fabrics, telecommunication and sound equipment, electronic microcircuits, clothing, ships, automobiles, chemicals, office machines, and footwear. Annual imports in the early 1990s were valued at $83.8 billion and exports were worth $82.2 billion. Principal trading partners for exports were the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia; chief partners for imports were Japan, the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Indonesia.
To sum this up, South Korea is a very industrial, high-export country. It has many people, so they can have huge factories and be very productive.
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