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South Korea at a Glance

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98,190 sq km

Currency (code):

South Korean won (KRW)

Exchange rates:

South Korean won per US dollar - 927 (2007), 954.8 (2006), 1,024.1 (2005), 1,145.3 (2004), 1,191.6 (2003)


49,044,790 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 18.3% (male 4,714,103/female 4,262,873)
  • 15-64 years: 72.1% (male 18,004,719/female 17,346,594)
  • 65 years and over: 9.6% (male 1,921,803/female 2,794,698) (2007 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.394% (2007 est.)


Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)


South Korea’s climate is temperate, but high humidity makes summers seem hotter and winters colder. The nation experiences all four seasons; spring and fall are the most pleasant times of the year. The monsoon season is from mid-July to mid-August. During this time, South Korea receives half of its annual rainfall. Korea is traditionally known as Choso˘n (“Land of the Morning Calm”).


The Korean language plays an important role in national identity. Modern Korean has adopted many English and other foreign terms associated with Western culture. English is taught in schools and many people in urban areas can speak it.

General Attitudes:

Korean society is vertically ordered according to tenets of Confucian philosophy. Nearly all interaction is determined by one’s place in various social groups or one’s status in a relationship. One’s status is determined by age, gender, education, family background, wealth, occupation, and/or political ideology. Success depends on social contacts. Koreans often use extreme modesty when speaking about themselves. They are reluctant to accept high honors and graciously deny compliments. Koreans are quick to make friends and they rely on each other for just about anything.

Giving gifts as a means of obtaining favors is common, especially in the workplace, and accepting a gift carries the responsibility of reciprocity. Open criticism and public disagreement are considered inappropriate because they can damage another person’s reputation. Out of respect for the feelings of others, Koreans may withhold bad news or adverse opinions or express them in an indirect way. Greater democracy, economic prosperity, and Westernization are changing Korean society for the rising generation. Young people enjoy more material possessions and a broader pop culture than their parents’ generation.


Within the Confucian social structure, how one is greeted depends on one’s age and social standing relative to the greeter. A bow is the traditional greeting, but it is usually accompanied by a handshake between men. As a sign of respect, the left hand may support or rest under the right forearm during the handshake. Women shake hands less often than men do. Among friends and relatives, a simple nod is acceptable. Children bow when greeting adults. Professionals meeting for the first time exchange business cards, presenting and accepting the cards with both hands after a handshake.

A common greeting between peers or for subordinates is Annyong haseyo? (Are you at peace?). Children often greet each other with a simple Annyong? To show respect for a social superior, one adds an honorific: Annyong hashimnikka? A Korean name typically consists of a one-syllable family name followed by a one- or two-syllable given name. Kim, Lee (Yi), and Park (Pak) are the most common family names. Women retain their maiden names when they marry.

Labor force:

24.01 million (2007 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

  • agriculture: 8.8%
  • industry: 18.3%
  • services: 72.9% (2006)

Unemployment rate:

2.9% (2007 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

2.5% (2007 est.)

Natural resources:

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


$386.6 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities:

semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals

Exports - partners:

China 21.3%, US 13.3%, Japan 8.1%, Hong Kong 5.9% (2007)


$359.5 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals, plastics

Imports - partners:

Japan 16.8%, China 15.7%, US 11%, Saudi Arabia 6.7%, UAE 4.2% (2007)



South Korea.” CultureGrams World Edition. 2008. ProQuest. <>.


South Korea.” Factsheet. May, 2007. Economist Intelligence Unit. <>

"South Korea at a Glance";