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December 2007

South Korea

South Korea

South Korea (officially, Republic of Korea) encompasses an area of 98,477 sq. km. (38,022 sq. mi.), about the size of state of Indiana. Its capital is Seoul (population 10.3 million); other major cities are: Busan, Daegu, Inchon, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Ulsan. The terrain of South Korea consists of forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys and cultivated plains along the coasts. South Korea is bordered by North Korea to the North and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan, Korean Strait, and Yellow Sea.

An independent Korean state or a collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century, until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, the Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from Democratic People's Republic of Korea attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel.

After 1953, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth. In 1993, Kim Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president, following 32 years of military rule. In June 2000, a historic North-South summit took place between South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader Kim Jong Il.

The natural hazards facing South Korea consist of occasional typhoons bringing high winds and floods and low-level seismic activity. In 2004, South Korea's oil consumption was 2.149 barrels per day (bbl/day); its exports were 644,100 bbl/day and imports were 2.83 million bbl/day.

U.S. State Department Background Notes; CIA World Factbook, 2007/9; 2007/12

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