South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean peninsula. Under US sponsorship, it was separated from the communist North in 1948 and is now a capitalist economy.
Geography: Over 80% is mountainous and two-thirds is forested. The flattest and most populous parts lie along the west coast and in the extreme south.
Climate: There are four distinct seasons. Winters are dry, and bitterly cold. Summers are hot and humid.
People and Society: Inhabited for the last 2000 years by a single ethnic group. The nuclear family is replacing traditional extended households. Since the 1953 armistice, the Koreas have remained technically at war. Reunification is the ultimate goal, but in 2009 the South became less conciliatory and the North retaliated by ending its offer of cooperation.
The Economy: World’s biggest shipbuilder. High-tech goods and cars: rising demand from China. Strong regional competition. Aging population.
Insight: Half of all Koreans are named Kim, Lee, Park, or Choi
Official Name: Republic of Korea
Date Of Formation: 1948
Population: 48.3 million
Total Area: 38,023 sq. miles (98,480 sq. km)
Density: 1268 people per sq. mile
Languages: Korean*, Chinese
Religions: Mahayana Buddhist 47%, Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 11%, Confucianist 3%, other 1%
Ethnic Mix: Korean 100%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: South Korean won = 100 chon