About South Korea

South Korea or the Republic of Korea (ROK)

Motto: 홍익인간 (unofficial) or “Benefit broadly the human world”

Official languages and scripts: Korean; Hangul

Ethnic groups: 99% Koreans (Koreans call their society 단일민족국가 or Dan-il minjok guk ga, “the single race society”.)

Capital and largest city: Seoul

Population: approximately 50,000,000 (ranked 25th)

(The Seoul National Capital Area has 24.5 million inhabitants making it the world’s 2nd largest metropolitan area and easily the most densely populated city in the OECD.)

Time zone: Korea Standard Time (UTC+9)


President-elect: Park Geun-hye (elected on December 19, 2012, will take office on February 25, 2013)

Prime Minister: Kim Hwang-sik

Legislature: National Assembly


Rank: 15th (Nominal) / 12th (Purchasing Power)

Currency: South Korean Won (KRW)

Population below poverty line: 15% (2006 estimate)

Unemployment: 3.4% (2011 estimate)

Main industries: Electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, and steel

In 2010, South Korea was the 7th largest exporter and 10th largest importer in the world.

A member of the “Asian Tigers” and the only developed country so far to have been included in the group of “Next Eleven” countries.

Also included as a G-20 major economies and a member of OECD.

The Korean War began in 1950 when forces from the North invaded the South and lasted 3 years, involving the U.S., China, the Soviet Union, and many other nations.  The border between the 2 nations remains the most heavily fortified in the world.

South Korea has the world’s 6th largest number of active troops (650,000 in 2011), the world’s 2nd largest number of reserve troops(3,200,000 in 2011), and the 11th largest defense budget in part because of the ongoing conflict with North Korea.


As of 2005, just under half of the South Korean population expressed no religious preference.  Of the rest, most are Buddhist or Christian.  According to the 2007 census, 29.2% of the population at that time was Christian (18.3% identified themselves as Protestants, 10.9% as Roman Catholics), and 22.8% were Buddhist.

Other Statistics

South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the 30 OECD countries, having recently surpassed Japan’s rate.  The toll of suicide deaths in South Korea has doubled in the last decade and suicide is the most common cause of death for those under age 40 in South Korea.  The two most common methods of suicide in the period between 1993 to 2003 was poisoning and hanging which account for about 2/3 of all suicides.  Between 2009 and 2010, the main causes of the 29,501 suicides in South Korea were: psychological despair 28.8% (8,489 cases), physical pain 22.6% (6,672), economic difficulties 15.9% (4,690), and family problems 11.4% (3,363).  In cases of youth suicide, the most common cause is pressure related to the College Scholastic Ability Test.

Presently, South Korea has strict gun control laws that rank them among countries with the fewest quantity of firearms per capita.

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