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
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
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...