South Korea - KR - KOR - KOR - East and Southeast Asia

Last updated: April 17, 2024
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Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Philip S. GOLDBERG (since 29 July 2022)

embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul

mailing address: 9600 Seoul Place, Washington, DC  20521-9600

telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114

FAX: [82] (2) 397-4101

email address and website:

consulate(s): Busan

Age structure

0-14 years: 11.53% (male 3,072,352/female 2,916,984)

15-64 years: 70.1% (male 18,788,714/female 17,639,714)

65 years and over: 18.38% (2023 est.) (male 4,196,789/female 5,352,395)
2023 population pyramid
This is the population pyramid for South Korea. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends.

For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Geographic coordinates

37 00 N, 127 30 E

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2023 est.)


1,275 (2024)

Natural hazards

occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest

volcanism: Halla (1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana
Area comparison map

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age for compulsory military service for all men; minimum conscript service obligation varies by service - 18 months (Army, Marines, auxiliary police), 20 months (Navy, conscripted firefighters), 21 months (Air Force, social service), 36 months for alternative service; 18-29 years of age for voluntary military service for men and women (2024)

note 1: women, in service since 1950, are able to serve in all branches and as of 2022 some 15,000 served in the armed forces, including about 9% of the non-commissioned and commissioned officers

note 2: the military brings on over 200,000 conscripts each year


The first recorded kingdom (Choson) on the Korean Peninsula dates from approximately 2300 B.C. Over the subsequent centuries, three main kingdoms - Kogoryo, Paekche, and Silla - were established on the Peninsula.  By the 5th century A.D., Kogoryo emerged as the most powerful, with control over much of the Peninsula, as well as part of Manchuria (modern-day northeast China).  However, Silla allied with the Chinese to create the first unified Korean state in the late 7th century (688).  Following the collapse of Silla in the 9th century, Korea was unified under the Koryo (Goryeo; 918-1392) and the Chosen (Joseon; 1392-1910) dynasties.

Korea became the object of intense imperialistic rivalry between the Chinese (its traditional benefactor), Japanese, and Russian empires in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Following the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Korea was occupied by Imperial Japan. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the US and its allies in 1945. After World War II, a democratic 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 (North Korea; aka Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside ROK soldiers to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion supported by communist China and the Soviet Union. A 1953 armistice split the Peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel.

Syngman RHEE led the country as its first president from 1948-1960. PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea in 1979. PARK was assassinated in 1979, and subsequent years were marked by political turmoil and continued authoritarian rule as the country's pro-democracy movement grew. South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former South Korean Army general ROH Tae-woo winning a close race. In 1993, KIM Young-sam (1993-98) became the first civilian president of South Korea's new democratic era. President KIM Dae-jung (1998-2003) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his contributions to South Korean democracy and his "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea. President PARK Geun-hye, daughter of former South Korean President PARK Chung-hee, took office in February 2013 as South Korea's first female leader. In December 2016, the National Assembly passed an impeachment motion against President PARK over her alleged involvement in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, immediately suspending her presidential authorities. The impeachment was upheld in March 2017, triggering an early presidential election in May 2017 won by MOON Jae-in. In March 2022, longtime prosecutor and political newcomer YOON Suk Yeol won the presidency by the slimmest margin in South Korean history.

Discord and tensions with North Korea, punctuated by North Korean military provocations, missile launches, and nuclear tests, have permeated inter-Korean relations for years. Despite a period of respite in 2018-2019 ushered in by North Korea's participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in South Korea and high-level diplomatic meetings, including historic US-North Korea summits, relations were strained as of early 2024. In 2024, Pyongyang announced it was ending all economic cooperation with South Korea, a move that followed earlier proclamations that it was scrapping a military pact signed in 2018 aimed at de-escalating tensions along their militarized border, abandoning the country’s decades-long pursuit of peaceful unification with South Korea, and designating the South as North Korea’s “principal enemy.”

Environment - current issues

air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing; solid waste disposal; transboundary air pollution from China

Environment - international agreements

party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Population below poverty line

14.4% (2016 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.8%

highest 10%: 24% (2016 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population

Exports - commodities

integrated circuits, cars and vehicle parts, refined petroleum, office machinery, ships, telephones (2021)

Exports - partners

China 24%, US 15%, Vietnam 9%, Hong Kong 6%, Japan 5% (2021)

Administrative divisions

9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city (teugbyeolsi), and 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeoljachisi)

provinces: Chungcheongbuk-do (North Chungcheong), Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong), Gangwon-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang), Gyeonggi-do, Gyeongsangnam-do (South Gyeongsang), Jeju-do (Jeju), Jeollabuk-do (North Jeolla), Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla)

metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejeon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan

special city: Seoul

special self-governing city: Sejong

Agricultural products

rice, vegetables, cabbages, milk, onions, pork, poultry, eggs, tangerines/mandarins, potatoes

Military and security forces

Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea: Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN, includes Marine Corps, ROKMC), Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF)

Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Korea Coast Guard; Ministry of Interior and Safety: Korean National Police Agency (2023)

note 1: in January 2022, the South Korean military announced the formation of a space branch under its Joint Chiefs of Staff to coordinate the development of space and space-enabled capabilities across the Army, Navy and Air Force

note 2: the military reserves include Mobilization Reserve Forces (First Combat Forces) and Homeland Defense Forces (Regional Combat Forces)


revenues: $378.552 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $372.412 billion (2019 est.)


name: Seoul; note - Sejong, located some 120 km (75 mi) south of Seoul, serves as an administrative capital for segments of the South Korean Government

geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E

time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name originates from the Korean word meaning "capital city" and which is believed to be derived from Seorabeol, the name of the capital of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Silla

Imports - commodities

crude oil, integrated circuits, natural gas, refined petroleum, photo lab equipment, cars, iron (2021)


temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winters


2,413 km


history: several previous; latest passed by National Assembly 12 October 1987, approved in referendum 28 October 1987, effective 25 February 1988

amendments: proposed by the president or by majority support of the National Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership, approval in a referendum by more than one half of the votes by more than one half of eligible voters, and promulgation by the president; amended several times, last in 1987

Exchange rates

South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
1,291.447 (2022 est.)
1,143.952 (2021 est.)
1,180.266 (2020 est.)
1,165.358 (2019 est.)
1,100.163 (2018 est.)

Executive branch

chief of state: President YOON Suk Yeol (since 10 May 2022); the president is both chief of state and head of government; Prime Minister HAN Duck-soo (since 21 May 2022) serves as the principal executive assistant to the president, similar to the role of a vice president

head of government: President YOON Suk Yeol (since 10 May 2022)

cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a single 5-year term; election last held on 9 March 2022 (next to be held in March 2027); prime minister appointed by president with consent of the National Assembly

election results:
: YOON Suk-yeol elected president; YOON Suk-yeol (PPP) 48.6%, LEE Jae-myung (DP) 47.8%; other 3.6%

2017: MOON Jae-in elected president; MOON Jae-in (DP) 41.1%, HONG Joon-pyo (Liberty Korea Party) 24%, AHN Cheol-soo (PP) 21.4%, YOO Seung-min (Bareun Party) 6.8%, SIM Sang-jung (Justice Party) 6.2%

Fiscal year

calendar year

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 South 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


15 August 1945 (from Japan)


electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of a chief justice and 13 justices); Constitutional Court (consists of a court head and 8 justices)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly; other justices appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the chief justice and consent of the National Assembly; position of the chief justice is a 6-year nonrenewable term; other justices serve 6-year renewable terms; Constitutional Court justices appointed - 3 by the president, 3 by the National Assembly, and 3 by the Supreme Court chief justice; court head serves until retirement at age 70, while other justices serve 6-year renewable terms with mandatory retirement at age 65

subordinate courts: High Courts; District Courts; Branch Courts (organized under the District Courts); specialized courts for family and administrative issues

Land boundaries

total: 237 km

border countries (1): North Korea 237 km

Land use

agricultural land: 18.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 15.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 2.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 63.9% (2018 est.)

other: 18% (2018 est.)

Legal system

mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Gukhoe (300 seats statutory, current 295; 253 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 47 directly elected in a single national constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)

last held on 10 April 2024 (next to be held in April 2028)

election results:
percent of vote by party/coalition (constituency) - Democratic Alliance 52.3%, PPP 45.7%, others 2%; percent of vote by party/coalition (proportional) - PPP 36.7%, Democratic Alliance 26.7%, Rebuilding Korea Party 24.3%, New Reform Party 3.6%, New Future Party 1.7%, others 7%; seats by party - Democratic Alliance 176 (DPK 169), PPP 108, Rebuilding Korea Party 12, New Reform Party 3, New Future Party 1; composition prior to 2024 election - men 240, women 60, percentage women 20%

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

International organization participation

ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, Arctic Council (observer), ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CABEI, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNHRC, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNOOSA, UNWTO, UPU, Wassenaar Arrangement, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

National holiday

Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)


noun: Korean(s)

adjective: Korean

Natural resources

coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential

Geography - note

strategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coasts

Economic overview

strong export-driven East Asian economy; sustainable and social policy leader; foreign aid financier; automotive manufacturing; app-based developer and exporter; global healthcare technology leader; aging workforce; largest semiconductor producer


3,790 km gas, 16 km oil, 889 km refined products (2018)

Political parties and leaders

Basic Income Party [MUN Mi-jeong]
New Reform Party [LEE Jun-seok]
Democratic Party of Korea or DPK [LEE Jae-myung] 
New Future Party [LEE Nak-yun]
Open Democratic Party or ODP [KIM Sang-gyun]
People Power Party or PPP [HAN Dong-hoon] 
Progressive Party or Jinbo Party [YOON Hee-suk]
Rebuilding Korea Party [CHO Kuk]
Social Democratic Party [NA]

note - the Democratic Alliance Coalition consists of the DPK and the smaller Basic Income, Jinbo, Open Democratic, and Social Democratic parties, as well as two independents; for the 2024 election, the Basic Income Party, the ODP, and the Social Democratic Party formed the New Progressive Alliance

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu

container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (22,706,130), Incheon (3,353,781), Kwangyang (2,122,903) (2021)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu


18 years of age; universal; note - the voting age was lowered from 19 to 18 beginning with the 2020 national election

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: South Korea is second only to Hong Kong in the world rankings of telecom market maturity; it is also on the leading edge of the latest telecom technology developments, including around 6G; with its highly urbanized, tech-savvy population, South Korea also enjoys very high communication levels across all segments – fixed-line telephony (44% at the start of 2022), fixed broadband (46%), mobile voice and data (144%), and mobile broadband (120%); the performance of the mobile sector is on a par with other developed markets around the region, but it’s the wire line segment that allows South Korea to stand out from the crowd; this is partly a reflection of the large proportion of its population who live in apartment buildings (around 60%), making fiber and apartment LAN connections relatively easy and cost-effective to deploy; the government’s Ultra Broadband convergence Network (UBcN) had aimed to reach 50% adoption by the end of 2022, but that target may be a few more years away; fixed-line teledensity is also at a very high level compared to most of the rest of the world, but it has been on a sharp decline from a rate of 60% ten years ago; on the mobile front, users have enthusiastically migrated from one generation of mobile platform to the next as each iteration becomes available; there also doesn’t appear to be any great concern about there being a lack of demand for 5G in South Korea (when the country is already well supported by 4G networks), with 30% of all subscribers having already made the switch; part of the reason behind the rapid transition may be the subsidized handsets on offer from each of the MNOs and the MVNOs (2022)

domestic: fixed-line approximately 45 per 100 and mobile-cellular services 141 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce (2021)

international: country code - 82; landing points for EAC-C2C, FEA, SeaMeWe-3, TPE, APCN-2, APG, FLAG North Asia Loop/REACH North Asia Loop, KJCN, NCP, and SJC2 submarine cables providing links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and US; satellite earth stations - 66 (2019)


mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south

Government type

presidential republic

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Korea

conventional short form: South Korea

local long form: Taehan-min'guk

local short form: Han'guk

abbreviation: ROK

etymology: derived from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century A.D.; the South Korean name "Han'guk" derives from the long form, "Taehan-min'guk," which is itself a derivation from "Daehan-je'guk," which means "the Great Empire of the Han"; "Han" refers to the "Sam'han" or the "Three Han Kingdoms" (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla from the Three Kingdoms Era, 1st-7th centuries A.D.)


Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea

Map references


Irrigated land

7,780 sq km (2012)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador CHO Hyundong (since 19 April 2023)

chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600

FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595

email address and website:

consulate(s) general: Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (TX), Hagatna (Guam), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC

Internet country code


Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 202 (2022)

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.674 trillion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2012)

Moody's rating: Aa2 (2015)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2016)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

Total renewable water resources

69.7 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 17 years

female: 16 years (2020)


urban population: 81.5% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.31% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Broadcast media

multiple national TV networks with 2 of the 3 largest networks publicly operated; the largest privately owned network, Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS), has ties with other commercial TV networks; cable and satellite TV subscription services available; publicly operated radio broadcast networks and many privately owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.9% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.1% of population (2020 est.)

National anthem

name: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)

lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay

note: adopted 1948, well-known by 1910; both North Korea's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics
This is an audio of the National Anthem for Korea, South. The national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition - usually in the form of a song or hymn of praise - that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, or struggles of a nation or its people. National anthems can be officially recognized as a national song by a country's constitution or by an enacted law, or simply by tradition. Although most anthems contain lyrics, some do not.

Major urban areas - population

9.988 million SEOUL (capital), 3.472 million Busan, 2.849 million Incheon, 2.181 million Daegu (Taegu), 1.577 million Daejon (Taejon), 1.529 million Gwangju (Kwangju) (2023)

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Physicians density

2.48 physicians/1,000 population (2019)

Hospital bed density

12.4 beds/1,000 population (2018)

National symbol(s)

taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon), Siberian tiger; national colors: red, white, blue, black

Mother's mean age at first birth

32.2 years (2019 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

82.3% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 20-49

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 48.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 31.1% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 43.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.7% (2017 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 39.9

youth dependency ratio: 16.6

elderly dependency ratio: 23.3

potential support ratio: 4.3 (2021 est.)


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Korea

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Population distribution

with approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populated

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 14 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 424

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 88,157,579 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 11,929,560,000 (2018) mt-km

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix


Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.9% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.1% of population (2020 est.)

Ethnic groups



Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9% (2015 est.)

note: many people also carry on at least some Confucian traditions and practices


Korean, English (widely taught in elementary, junior high, and high school)

major-language sample(s):
월드 팩트북, 필수적인 기본 정보 제공처 (Korean)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.
Korean audio sample

Imports - partners

China 24%, US 12%, Japan 9%, Vietnam 4%, Taiwan 4% (2021)

Disputes - international

South Korea-Japan: South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954

South Korea-North Korea: Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limit Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary


highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m

lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m

mean elevation: 282 m

Current health expenditure

8.4% of GDP (2020)

Military - note

the South Korean military is primarily focused on the threat from North Korea but also deploys abroad for multinational missions, including peacekeeping and other security operations; it also participates in bilateral and multinational exercises

South Korea's primary defense partner is the US, and the 1953 US-South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty is a cornerstone of South Korea’s security; the Treaty committed the US to provide assistance in the event of an attack, particularly from North Korea; in addition, the Treaty gave the US permission to station land, air, and sea forces in and about the territory of South Korea as determined by mutual agreement; the US maintains approximately 28,000 military personnel in the country and conducts bilateral exercises with the South Korean military; South Korea has Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status with the US, a designation under US law that provides foreign partners with certain benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation; the South Korean military has assisted the US in conflicts in Afghanistan (5,000 troops; 2001-2014), Iraq (20,000 troops; 2003-2008), and Vietnam (325,000 troops; 1964-1973)

in 2016, South Korea concluded an agreement with the EU for participation in EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, such as the EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta, which protects maritime shipping and conducts counter-piracy operations off the coast of East Africa

South Korea has been engaged with NATO through dialogue and security cooperation since 2005 and is considered by NATO to be a global partner; in 2022, South Korea established its Mission to NATO to further institutionalize its cooperative relationship; it has participated in NATO-led missions and exercises, including leading an integrated civilian-military reconstruction team in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, 2010-2013; it has also cooperated with NATO in countering the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden by providing naval vessels as escorts

in addition to the invasion of South Korea and the subsequent Korean War (1950-53), North Korea from the 1960s to the 1980s launched a considerable number of limited military and subversive actions against South Korea using special forces and terrorist tactics; including aggressive skirmishes along the DMZ, overt attempts to assassinate South Korean leaders, kidnappings, the bombing of an airliner, and a failed effort in 1968 to foment an insurrection and conduct a guerrilla war in the South with more than 100 seaborne commandos; from the 1990s until 2010, the North lost two submarines and a semi-submersible boat attempting to insert infiltrators into the South (1996, 1998) and provoked several engagements in the Northwest Islands area along the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL), including naval skirmishes between patrol boats in 1999 and 2002, the torpedoing and sinking of a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, in 2010, and the bombardment of a South Korean Marine Corps installation on Yeonpyeong Island, also in 2010; since 2010, further minor incidents continue to occur periodically along the DMZ, where both the North and the South Korean militaries maintain large numbers of troops

the South Korean Army is organized into commands for aviation, ballistic and cruise missile operations, capital defense, ground operations, air and missile defense, and rear area defense operations; the Ground Operations Command has six corps and most of the Army’s ground combat power, which includes 21 combined arms infantry divisions, several of which are mechanized, and about 20 independent armored, artillery, air assault, aviation, and special operations brigades; the active ground forces are backed up by a large reserve force made up of former active duty soldiers

the Navy is a modern force that conducts both coastal and blue water operations; it has three numbered fleets, each assigned to the seas east, west, and south of the country; it also has a submarine command, surface flotillas for specialized missions such as mine warfare and amphibious operations, an aviation wing, a special warfare force, and South Korea’s Marine Corps, which is one of the largest in the World and functions as a rapid reaction, strategic reserve, and island defense force; the Navy’s principal warships include more than 25 destroyers and frigates, two landing platform helicopter (LPH) amphibious assault ships, and about 20 attack-type submarines, complemented by a large force of corvettes and coastal patrol vessels

the South Korean Air Force has a largely modern inventory of more than 800 fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including over 500 fighter and multirole fighter aircraft; it is organized into commands for air combat and air mobility/reconnaissance with subordinate wings and squadrons; the Air Force also has commands for ground based air defense (2023)


total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 500,000 active-duty personnel (365,000 Army; 70,000 Navy, including about 30,000 Marines; 65,000 Air Force) (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the South Korean military is equipped with a mix of domestically produced and imported weapons systems; South Korea has a robust defense industry and production includes armored fighting vehicles, artillery, aircraft, naval ships, and missiles; its weapons are designed to be compatible with US and NATO systems; in recent years the top foreign weapons supplier has been the US, and some domestically produced systems are built under US license (2024)

Military deployments

250 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 275 South Sudan (UNMISS); 170 United Arab Emirates; note - since 2009, South Korea has kept a naval flotilla with approximately 300 personnel in the waters off of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (2023)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 6.672 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 4.45 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 15.96 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 18,218,975 tons (2014 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 10,567,006 tons (2014 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 58% (2014 est.)

Average household expenditures

on food: 13.8% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

on alcohol and tobacco: 2.7% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 24.04 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 620.3 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 30.28 megatons (2020 est.)

Illicit drugs

precursor chemicals used for illicit drugs, such as acetic anhydride, pseudoephedrine, and ephedrine, imported from the United States, Japan, India, and China and then either resold within South Korea or smuggled into other countries


National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 16 (14 cultural, 2 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (n); Changdeokgung Palace Complex (c); Jongmyo Shrine (c); Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (c); Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (c); Gyeongju Historic Areas (c); Namhansanseong (c); Baekje Historic Areas (c); Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea (c); Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (c)


production: 16.364 million metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 140.579 million metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 16,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 123.784 million metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 326 million metric tons (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 64.8% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 27.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 3.3% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0.6% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 1.3% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 1.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Natural gas

production: 240.042 million cubic meters (2019 est.)

consumption: 53,419,105,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2019 est.)

imports: 55,417,677,000 cubic meters (2019 est.)

proven reserves: 7.079 billion cubic meters (2021 est.)


total petroleum production: 37,400 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 2,598,700 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 3,034,400 bbl/day (2018 est.)

Gross reproduction rate

0.54 (2023 est.)

Currently married women (ages 15-49)

52.9% (2023 est.)


0.47% of GDP (2022 est.)
0.43% of GDP (2021 est.)
0.45% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Nuclear energy

Number of operational nuclear reactors: 25 (2023)

Number of nuclear reactors under construction: 3

Net capacity of operational nuclear reactors: 24.49GW (2021)

Percent of total electricity production: 27.4% (2021)

Percent of total energy produced: 76.5% (2021)

Number of nuclear reactors permanently shut down: 2

Space program overview

has a growing and ambitious space program focused on developing satellites, satellite/space launch vehicles (SLVs), and interplanetary probes; has a national space strategy; manufacturers and operates satellites, including those with communications, remote sensing (RS), scientific, and multipurpose capabilities; manufactures and launches SLVs; developing interplanetary space vehicles, including orbital probes and landers; participates in international space programs and has relations with an array of foreign space agencies and industries, including those of Australia, the European Space Agency (ESA) and its member states (particularly France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK), India, Israel, Japan, Peru, Russia, UAE, and especially the US; has a robust commercial space industry that works closely with KARI in the development of satellites and space launch capabilities (2023)

note: further details about the key activities, programs, and milestones of the country’s space program, as well as government spending estimates on the space sector, appear in Appendix S

Space launch site(s)

Naro Space Center (South Jeolla province) (2023)

Space agency/agencies

Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI; established 1989); Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST); Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI; funded by the South Korean Government); KARI works closely with the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), a  national agency for research and development in defense technology established in 1970; established a military space branch in 2022; in 2022, announced plans to form a fully independent space agency for integrated management of both civil and military space programs (2023)


total global geoparks and regional networks: 5

global geoparks and regional networks: Cheongsong; Hantangang; Jeju Island; Jeonbuk West Coast; Mudeungsan (2023)

Labor force

29.314 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 7.8% (2021 est.)

male: 8.8%

female: 6.9%

Net migration rate

2.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Median age

total: 45 years (2023 est.)

male: 43.5 years

female: 46.8 years

Debt - external

$457.745 billion (2019 est.)
$435.98 billion (2018 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

8 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$423.366 billion (2022 est.)
$463.281 billion (2021 est.)
$443.463 billion (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars


1,600 km (2011) (most navigable only by small craft)

Refined petroleum products - imports

908,800 bbl/day (2017 est.)

Public debt

48.96% of GDP (2021 est.)
46.43% of GDP (2020 est.)
39.97% of GDP (2019 est.)

note: central government debt as a % of GDP

Total fertility rate

1.11 children born/woman (2023 est.)

note: some sources estimate the TFR to be as low as 0.78

Military expenditures

2.6% of GDP (2023)
2.6% of GDP (2022 est.)
2.6% of GDP (2021)
2.6% of GDP (2020)
2.7% of GDP (2019)

Unemployment rate

2.86% (2022 est.)
3.64% (2021 est.)
3.93% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment


51,966,948 (2023 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

1.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Internet users

total: 50.96 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 98% (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

686.954 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 319.383 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 255.518 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 112.052 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)


total: 99,720 sq km

land: 96,920 sq km

water: 2,800 sq km

Taxes and other revenues

16.73% (of GDP) (2021 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2.352 trillion (2022 est.)
$2.292 trillion (2021 est.)
$2.198 trillion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars


total: 100,428 km

paved: 92,795 km (includes 4,193 km of expressways)

unpaved: 7,633 km (2016)


89 (2024)

Infant mortality rate

total: 2.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 3 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 2.6 deaths/1,000 live births

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 72,855,492 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 141 (2021 est.)

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

31.4 (2016 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.09% (2022 est.)
2.5% (2021 est.)
0.54% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

Refined petroleum products - exports

1.396 million bbl/day (2017 est.)

Current account balance

$29.831 billion (2022 est.)
$85.228 billion (2021 est.)
$75.902 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

Real GDP per capita

$45,600 (2022 est.)
$44,300 (2021 est.)
$42,400 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 22,327,182 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 44 (2020 est.)

Tobacco use

total: 20.8% (2020 est.)

male: 35.7% (2020 est.)

female: 5.9% (2020 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

4.7% (2016)

Energy consumption per capita

242.346 million Btu/person (2019 est.)

Death rate

7.3 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Birth rate

7 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)


installed generating capacity: 135.789 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 531.258 billion kWh (2020 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 18.61 billion kWh (2020 est.)

Merchant marine

total: 2,149 (2023)

by type: bulk carrier 93, container ship 115, general cargo 362, oil tanker 219, other 1,360

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

0.9% (2019/21) NA


$811.129 billion (2022 est.)
$698.98 billion (2021 est.)
$541.57 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars


$820.643 billion (2022 est.)
$769.424 billion (2021 est.)
$607.505 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 22,809,806 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 45 (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

3.302 million bbl/day (2017 est.)

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 7.74 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 1.72 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.15 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.22 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 5.66 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 83.2 years (2023 est.)

male: 80.1 years

female: 86.4 years

Real GDP growth rate

2.61% (2022 est.)
4.3% (2021 est.)
-0.71% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

Industrial production growth rate

1.35% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency


total: 3,979 km (2016)

standard gauge: 3,979 km (2016) 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.2% (2017 est.)

industry: 39.3% (2017 est.)

services: 58.3% (2017 est.)

Revenue from forest resources

0.01% of GDP (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

Education expenditures

4.7% of GDP (2019 est.)

Population growth rate

0.23% (2023 est.)