The Republic of Korea is a small country on the far eastern edge of Asia. Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic activity, culture, and arts. Korea was colonized by Japan in the early 20th century and later had to endure the Korean War (1950-53), but it has achieved amazing economic growth in a short period, dubbed “the Miracle on the Han River.”

Today, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. It hosted the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music are attracting many audiences in Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the “Korean Wave.” Korea’s new standing in the international community was highlighted in 2010 with the nation becoming the first Asian country to chair the G20 and host the G20 Seoul Summit.

Fast Fact

Korea’s FTA Market

Korea has opened its market in most sectors, including agriculture. Koreans have traditionally attached great importance to agriculture, viewing it as the basis of the universe. Nonetheless, the country plans to open its rice market, which will be the last item to be opened in the agricultural sector, completely by 2015.

The country is pushing ahead with the complete opening of the market through FTAs. The country plans to sign FTAs with numerous countries with the aim of expanding its economic territory worldwide.

As of June 2015, South Korea has signed FTAs with 50 countries, including Chile, Singapore, EFTA, ASEAN, India, the EU, Peru, the United States, and Turkey. The FTAs signed with Columbia and Vietnam are awaiting effectuation. The country is currently engaged in FTA-related negotiations with RCEP, and Indonesia.

The Korean Market

South Korea is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the G-20 major economies. South Korea has a market economy that ranks 11th in the world by nominal GDP and 13th by purchasing power parity (PPP). It is a developed country, with a developed market and a high-income economy. South Korea is the only developed country included in the group of Next Eleven countries. South Korea had one of the world’s fastest growing economies from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and remains one of the fastest growing developed countries in the 2000s.South Koreans refer to this growth as the Miracle on the Han River of Heavy-Chemical Industry Drive, and the top four chaebol generate 90% of South Korean conglomerate profits.

On June 23, 2012, South Korea is landmarked to become the 7th member of the 20-50 club (with the population surpassing 50 million and maintaining per capita income of US$20,000), chronologically, after Japan, United States of America, France, Italy, Germany and United Kingdom. A free trade agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea was concluded on April 1, 2007. The European Union–South Korea Free Trade Agreement was signed on 15 October 2009. The Canada–South Korea Free Trade Agreement was concluded in 2014.

Korea’s Neighboring Market

Northeast Asia has now become one of the three global economic pillars, along with the United States and Europe. Geographically, Korea is situated at the center of air and maritime transportation networks in Northeast Asia. There are 51 cities with a 1 million-plus population within a 3-hour flight from Seoul.

Also, Korea, Japan and China boast a combined GDP of about $15 trillion. Their total population exceeds 1.53 billion, or 22% of the global population, and their trade volume is $6.90 trillion, or about 19% of the global trade volume as of 2014.


South Korea is a leader in the area of information and communications technology. ICT industry-related products, account for over 33% of Korea’s total exports. Today, Korean semiconductors, mobile handsets, TFT-LCDs and other items have become the most coveted in the global market because of their high quality. The e-commerce turnovers also showed growth between 2001 and 2013, from 118.9 trillion won (US$92.2 billion dollars) to 1204.1 trillion won (US$1037.1 billion dollars)

Country Name

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

National Flag


National Flower

Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)


Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)

Capital City

Seoul (10.2 million) (2012)


Won (US$1 = 1,053.1 won) (2014)


  • 51.33 million (South Korea) (2014)
  • * Foreign Residents (including short-term sojourners) : 1.1 million (2014)
  • * Cities by Population: Seoul (10.1 million),
  • Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.9 million),
  • Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.5 million),
  • Gwangju (1.5 million), Ulsan (1.2 million) (2014)

Median Age

  • 40.3 years (2015)

Economically Active Population

  • 27.1 million (2015)

Population Increase Rate

  • 27.1 million (2015)

Life Expectancy

  • Male, 78.5 years; female, 85.1 years (2013)


A 2005 census showed one half of the population practice religion. Among them, 10,726,463 Buddhists, 8,616,438 Protestants, and 5,146,147 Catholics comprise the three dominant religions.

Gross Domestic Product

  • US$ 1,410 billion (2014)

Per Capital GNI

  • US$ 28,180 (2014)
  • GDP Growth Rate: 3.3% (2014)
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves: US$ 364 billion (2014)


  • US$572 billion (2014)


  • US$526 billion (2014)

Major Industrial Products

Semiconductors, automobiles, ships, consumer electronics, mobile telecommunications, equipment, steel, and chemicals.

**Sources of information: http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korea-at-a-Glance/Facts-about-Korea