FLAG: The flag, called the T’aegukki, shows, on a white field, a central circle divided into two parts, red on top and deep blue below, in the shape of Chinese yin and yang symbols. Broken and unbroken black bars in each of the four corners are variously arranged in sets of three, representing divination diagrams.
ANTHEM: Aegukka (The Song of Patriotism), officially adopted on 15 August 1948.
MONETARY UNIT: The won (w) is the national currency. There are notes of 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 won. w1 = $0.00099 (or $1 = w1,015) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Both the metric system and ancient Korean units of measurement are used.
HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Days, 1–3 January; Independence Movement Day, 1 March; Labor Day, 10 March; Arbor Day, 5 April; Children’s Day, 5 May; Memorial Day, 6 June; Constitution Day, 17 July; Liberation Day, 15 August; Armed Forces Day, 1 October; National Foundation Day, 3 October; Han’gul (Korean Alphabet) Day, 9 October; Christmas, 25 December.
TIME: 9 pm = noon GMT.
The Republic of Korea (ROK), also known as South Korea, occupies the southern 45% of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia and has an area of 98,480 square kilometers (38,023 square miles), slightly larger than the state of Indiana. The ROK has a total land boundary length of 240 kilometers (149 miles), all with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and a coastline of 2,413 kilometers (1,508 miles). More than 3,000 islands, most of them off the southern and western coasts, belong to the ROK. A demilitarized zone (DMZ) that is 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) wide covers 1,262 square kilometers (487 square miles) and is located north and south of the 38th parallel. The DMZ separates the ROK from the DPRK, which comprises the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.
The ROK’s capital city, Seoul, is located in the northwestern part of the country.
Area: 98,480 sq km (38,023 sq mi)
Size ranking: 106 of 194
Highest elevation: 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) at Halla Mountain (Halla-San)
Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Sea of Japan
Arable land: 17%
Permanent crops: 2%
Average annual precipitation: (Seoul): 109.3 centimeters (43.0 inches)
Average temperature in January: (Seoul): -9 to 0°c (16 to 32°f)
Average temperature in July: (Seoul): 21 to 29°c (70 to 84°f)
* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.
Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.
Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.
** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.
Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.
Elevations in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula are generally lower than those in the north. Only about 30% of the ROK consists of lowlands and plains. The principal lowlands, all bordering the Yellow Sea along the west coast, include the Han River Plain, near Seoul; the Pyongtaek and Honam Plains, south of the capital; and the Yongsan Plain in the southwest. Halla Mountain (1,950 meters/6,398 feet), on volcanic Cheju Island, is the nation’s highest point, while Mount Chiri, or Chii (1,915 meters/6,283 feet), is the highest point on the mainland. The lowest point is at sea level (Sea of Japan).
Principal rivers of the ROK include the Han, with Seoul near its mouth; the Kum and Yongsan, which water the fertile plains areas of the southwest; and the Somjin in the south. The longest river in the ROK is the Naktong (521 kilometers/324 miles), which waters the southeast.
The average January temperature ranges from -9°c (23°f) at Seoul to 4°c (39°f) on Cheju Island (Cheju Do). In the hottest part of the summer, average temperatures range only from 25 to 27°c (77 to 81°f) in most lowland areas. Average rainfall in Seoul 109.3 centimeters (43 inches). One to three mild typhoons normally strike the south in the early fall, with a severe storm occurring every two or three years.
The Korean Peninsula is rich in varieties of plant life typical of temperate regions. More than 3,000 species, some 500 of them unique to Korea, have been noted by botanists. Warm temperate vegetation, including camellias and other broad-leaved evergreens, predominate in the south and on Cheju Island. Zoologists have identified more than 130 freshwater fishes, 112 breeding birds, 49 mammals, and 14 reptiles and amphibians on the peninsula. Bear, wild boar, deer, and lynx still are found in the highlands, but the shrinking of the forested area has reduced the animal population in recent years. Migratory water fowl, cranes, herons, and other birds are visible on the plains. Noxious insects and household pests infest the warmer regions, and aquatic life is generally infected with parasites.
The purity of the nation’s water is threatened by agricultural chemicals. Air pollution, associated mainly with the use of coal briquettes for home heating and the increase in automobile traffic, is also severe. Smog is a common problem in Seoul.
The Naktong River delta, a marshland where thousands of birds spend the winter, is threatened by environmental pollution and by plans to dam the mouth of the river. According to a 2006 report, threatened species included 12 of Korea’s mammal species, 34 bird species, and 7 species of fish. Endangered species in the ROK include the Amur leopard, Oriental white stork, Japanese crested ibis, and Tristram’s woodpecker. The Japanese sea lion has become extinct.
The estimated 2005 population of the ROK was 48.29 million. A total of 49.8 million was projected for 2025. The estimated population density was 487 persons per square kilometer (1,261 per square mile), making the ROK one of the world’s most densely populated nations. Seoul, the largest city, had a population of 9.7 million in 2005. The estimated populations of other large urban areas included the following: Pusan, 3.5 million; Taegu, 2.5 million; Inch’on, 2.6 million; Kwangju, 1.44 million; and Taejon, 1.46 million.
From 1945 through 1949, at least 1.2 million Koreans moved south, crossing the 38th parallel into the ROK as refugees from communism or the Korean War (1950–53). Most of the emigrants are workers who send earnings back home. In addition, Koreans have immigrated permanently to the United States in large numbers since 1971. The population of Korean origin in the United States was 798,849 in 1990. Many South Koreans continue to move within the ROK from the rural areas to the cities, despite government efforts to improve village living conditions. In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was zero per 1,000 population.
The Koreans are believed to be descended primarily from Tungusic peoples of the Mongoloid race, who originated in the cold northern regions of Central Asia. There are about 20,000 Chinese in the country. However, the ROK has no sizable ethnic minority.
The Korean language is usually believed to be a member of the Altaic family. There are only slight differences between the various dialects. Korean is written in a largely phonetic alphabet called Han’gul, with letters resembling Chinese characters. ROK governments have launched several “language beautification” drives designed to purge Korean of borrowings from Japanese and other languages, but more than half of the vocabulary consists of words derived from Chinese.
English is widely taught in junior high and high school.
Most South Koreans practice varying mixtures of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Ch’ondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way). Shamanism, which includes the belief in evil spirits, is practiced in some rural areas of the ROK.
In 1995 49% of the population practiced Christianity, 47% Buddhism, 3% Confucianism, and 1% practiced shamanism, Ch’ondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way), and other religions. More than 21 million people claimed that they did not practice any religion. Approximately 49% of the population practice Christianity, while 47% practice Buddhism, 3% Confucianism, and 1% folk religions.
Other popular religions included Taejongyo, based on the worship of a trinity of ancient deities, and Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist sect of Japanese origin. There were also practicing Muslims, members of the Unification Church, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The ROK’s railroad system in 2004, totaled 3,472 kilometers (2,159 miles) of track, all of it standard gauge, and most of it government-owned. In 2003, the ROK had 97,252 kilometers (60,491 miles) of roadway, of which 74,641 kilometers (46,426 miles) were paved, including 23,778 kilometers (1,728 miles) of expressways. There were 10,278,900 passenger automobiles and 4,308,400 commercial vehicles in 2003.
Maritime shipping expanded rapidly during the 1970s. Pusan is the chief port; other major ports include Inch’on (the port for Seoul), Kunsan, and Mokp’o.
Major airports are Kimpo International Airport at Seoul and Kimhae International Airport west of Pusan. In 2003, a total of 33 billion passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.
For Korean history before 1948, see Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of.
The Korean War The Republic of Korea (ROK), headed by President Syngman Rhee, was proclaimed on 15 August 1948 in the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which had been under United States military administration since 1945. Like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), established in the north with backing from the Soviet Union, the ROK claimed to be the legitimate government of all Korea. The ROK was recognized as the legitimate government by the United Nations General Assembly.
On 25 June 1950, the People’s Army of the DPRK invaded the ROK to unify the country under communist control. The DPRK forces advanced rapidly, and the destruction of the ROK seemed near. However, United States and United Nations multinational forces came to the aid of the South Koreans. A military campaign led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur pushed the DPRK’s forces past the 38th parallel, and almost to the Yalu River.
However, as MacArthur’s forces neared the Yalu, which served as the Chinese-North Korean border, China, which had warned that it would not tolerate U.S./UN forces at the river, entered the fighting, forcing MacArthur into a costly retreat. The battle line stabilized near the 38th parallel, where it remained for two years. On 27 July 1953, a peace agreement finally was signed by all parties. The war killed an estimated 415,000 South Koreans, 23,300 Americans, 3,100 United Nations allies, and, according to official numbers, 50,000 North Koreans and Chinese (although this number is thought to be as high as 2 million).
Post-War History In 1954, the United States and the ROK signed a mutual defense treaty, under which United States troops remained in the country. Financial assistance throughout the 1950s was provided by the United States, averaging $270 million annually between 1953 and 1958. Syngman Rhee ran the government until 1960, when his authoritarian rule provoked violent student demonstrations that finally brought about his downfall. In May 1961, the Second Korean Republic was overthrown in a military coup headed by Major General Park Chung-hee.
For the next 18 years, Park ruled South Korea, periodically resorting to martial law in response to student demonstrations and other forms of opposition. On 26 October 1979, Park was assassinated by the director of the Korean intelligence agency, Kim Jae-gyu, who was later executed.
The Chun and Roh Regimes In December 1979, Major General Chun Doo Hwan led a coup against Park’s successor. Demonstrations by university students spread through the spring of 1980, and by mid-May the government once more declared martial law. In the 1981 elections, Chun was elected to a seven-year presidential term by a new electoral college. His Democratic Justice Party (DJP) secured a majority in the reorganized national assembly. In June 1987, the DJP nominated its chairman, Roh Tae Woo, a former general and a close friend of Chun, as its candidate for his successor. Roh defeated the two major opposition candidates, Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae-Jung, and was inaugurated as president in February 1988.
Following a revision of the constitution in 1987, South Koreans enjoyed greater freedoms of expression and assembly and freedom of the press. In 1988, several hundred political dissidents were released from prison. The United States agreed to withdraw its nuclear weapons from the ROK in November 1991. And, on the last day of the year, the ROK and the DPRK signed an agreement to ban nuclear weapons from the entire Korean peninsula.
In the presidential election on 19 December 1992, Kim Young Sam, now leader of the majority DLP, was elected president. President Kim granted amnesty to 41,000 prisoners and fired many high-ranking military officials. Kim also cleaned up the government and business sector by arresting, firing, or publicly scolding several thousand government officials and business people.
In April 1996, North Korean troops violated the armistice and entered Panmunjom for training exercises. In September 1996, a small North Korean submarine was grounded off the eastern coast of the ROK. The boat appeared to be carrying a team of North Koreans who intended to spy in the ROK. The North Korean government apologized for the incident in February 1997.
In late 1996, former president Chun Doo Hwan and his successor Roh Tae Woo were tried and found guilty of treason and mutiny. They were held responsible for the Kwangju massacre of 1980. Chun was sentenced to life in prison, while Roh’s term was 17 years.
Also in late 1996, some officials in President Kim Young Sam’s administration were indicted on corruption charges. Several New Korea Party officials had taken bribes to arrange loans to a steel company that eventually went bankrupt with $6 billion in debt.
In late 1997, Korea’s debts began to overwhelm its economy. The government requested the help of the International Monetary Fund, which authorized loans totaling $55 billion, the largest assistance package ever made by the institution.
In March 1998, President Kim Dae-Jung pardoned many of South Korea’s prisoners, including some political prisoners.
In June 2000, President Kim Dae-Jung traveled to P’yongyang, the capital of North Korea for an historic meeting with his counterpart, Kim Jong Il. The two agreed to pursue further cooperation in the future. This summit meeting marked the high point of what became known as Kim Dae-Jung’s “sunshine policy” of closer relations with the North. Kim Dae-Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his commitment to democracy and human rights in Asia.
Roh Moo-hyun was elected president in the December 2002 election. While campaigning, Roh had stated he would continue with Kim Dae-Jung’s “sunshine policy” toward the North, but prior to his election, it was revealed that North Korea was secretly developing a program to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Relations between North Korea and the United States became tense in 2002 and remained so through 2006. The United States said that North Korea should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and the North asserted it had the right to do so to provide for its defense and security.
Under the new constitution, which took effect in February 1988, the president is elected by direct popular vote for a single term of five years. There also are a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers, who head the state council (the cabinet). The ROK legislature is the 273-seat national assembly (Kuk Hoe). Suffrage is universal at age 20. The ROK is divided into nine provinces (do), which are further divided into cities (si), counties (kun), townships (myon), and villages (i or ri).
Since the revised 1987 constitution took effect in February 1998, political parties have had a greater governmental role. In 1996, the majority party was the New Korea Party (NKP). The opposition parties were the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), the United Liberal Democratic Party (ULDP), and the Democratic Party (DP). In January 2000, President Kim Dae-Jung reorganized his cabinet; his party, the National Congress for New Politics, assumed
Name: Roh Moo-hyun
Position: President of a republic
Took Office: 25 February 2003
Birthplace: Kimhae, a village near Pusan in the southern Korean province of Kyongsang
Birthdate: 6 August 1946
Education: Roh schooled himself in the law, and passed the state bar exam in 1975.
Spouse: Kwon Yang Sook
Children: One son and one daughter
Of interest: Roh was impeached on 12 March 2004. After spending two months out of office, the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment.
a new name: Millennium Democratic Party (MDP).
The 13 April 2000 election involved Kim Dae-Jung’s Millennium Democratic Party, which captured 115 seats; the former governing party-Grand National Party (formerly the New Korea Party) obtained 133 seats; and the United Liberal Democratic Party captured 17 seats. Two seats were held by the Democratic People’s Party, one seat was held by the New Korea Party of Hope, and five seats went to independents. In December 2002, Roh Moo-hyun of the Millennium Democratic Party won the presidential election.
On 15 April 2004, the liberal Uri Dang Party won 152 seats in the national assembly, upsetting the Grand National Party, which won 121 seats. The MDP won nine seats.
The legal system combines elements of European civil law, Anglo-American law, and classical Chinese philosophies. The highest judicial court is the supreme court. Under the supreme court are five intermediate appeals courts. Lower courts include 15 district courts and a family and administrative court. There are 103 municipal courts. The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, protection from self-incrimination, the right to a speedy trial, protection from double jeopardy, and other due process safeguards. There are no jury trials.
In 2005, the armed forces of the Republic of Korea (ROK) had a total of 687,700 personnel on active duty, of which 560,000 were in the army, 63,000 in the navy and marines, and 64,700 in the air force. An additional 4.5 million were in the reserves. Paramilitary forces included 3.5 million in the civilian defense corps, and an estimated 4,500 in the maritime police. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $20.7 billion.
The ROK has been one of the fastest-developing countries in the post-war period, shifting from an agricultural to an industrial economy in the course of only a few decades. Much of this industrialization involved heavy industry, notably steel, construction, shipbuilding, and technologically advanced goods such as electronics. The domestic economy grew by an annual average of 9.6% during 1985–90, but slowed to about 8.4% during the early 1990s. In 2005, agriculture was estimated to account for 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), with industry accounting for 40% and services 57%.
The economy was negatively affected by the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the ROK became even more deeply indebted than it had been before. South Korea’s economy made a strong recovery in 1999 and 2000, with GDP growth rates of 10.9% and 9.3%, while inflation rates lowered. The recovery was interrupted, however, by the collapse of the boom in Internet stocks in early 2001 and the decline in international investment following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Real GDP growth dropped to 2.7% in 2003, but was estimated at 3.9% in 2005 and was forecast to reach 4.8% in 2006.
Yearly Growth Rate
This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.
In 2005, the ROK’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $983.3 billion, or $20,300 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.9% for that same year. The average inflation rate was estimated at 2.8% for 2005.
The ROK ranks as a major Asian producer of steel, chemicals, automobiles, ships, machinery, nonferrous metals, textiles, clothing, shoes, processed food, and electronic equipment. In the
Components of the Economy
This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.
1980s, the manufacture of metals, machinery, electronic, and other equipment overtook textile production as the country’s leading industry. In 2002, industrial production grew 7.3%, which reflected a 21.4% growth in semiconductors. Excluding the semiconductor sector, growth that year was 5.8%. In 2005, industrial production grew by 3.9%.
Manufacturing in the ROK is dominated by a few dozen industrial conglomerates known as chaebol. These conglomerates have privileged access to financing and set the standards for contracting and procurement throughout the country.
By 2002, the ROK had become the world’s fifth-largest steel producer, up from tenth in 1989. In 1998, the ROK was the second-largest world producer of new ships; in 2002 it was the world leader. The production of passenger cars was 2 million in 1995. Total vehicle output that year was 2.5 million, or 5% of the world’s production. In 2004, a total of 3.4 million automotive vehicles were produced, making the country the world’s sixth-largest manufacturer of automobiles.
Samsung Electronics, LG, and Daewoo Electronics dominate in the production of consumer electronics. The televisions, videocassette recorders, stereos, refrigerators, washing machines, and microwave ovens produced by these three companies are sold around the world. In 2005, the ROK accounted for 4% of all computer memory chips produced, worldwide.
The labor force numbered an estimated 23.65 million in 2005. In 2004, an estimated 8% of the nation’s labor force was employed in the agricultural sector, with 19% in industry, and 73% in the service sector. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 3.7%. In 2005, about 11% of the workforce belonged to a union.
Children under the age of 15 are generally prohibited from working and those under 18 must obtain written approval from their parents. In 2005, the minimum wage was $2.92 per hour.
About 17% of the ROK’s land area is arable. Rice production in 2004–2005 was 5 million tons. Barley production in 2004 stood at 260,000 tons, potatoes at 550,000 tons, and soybeans at 139,000 tons.
Hemp, hops, and tobacco are the leading industrial crops. The ROK was the world’s second-leading producer of chestnuts in 2004, after China. The orchards in the Taegu area are renowned for their apples, the prime fruit crop. Apple production in 2004 was 60,000 tons. Pears, peaches, persimmons, and melons also are grown in abundance. About two-thirds of vegetable production is made up of just two items: the mu (a large white radish) and Chinese cabbage. These vegetables are the main ingredients of the year-round staple kimchi, or “Korean pickle.”
In 2005, the livestock population included 2.3 million head of cattle, 9 million pigs, and 110 million chickens. Production in that same year included 229,000 tons of beef, 1.05 million tons of pork, 402,000 tons of chicken, 598,000 tons of eggs, 2.237 million tons of milk, and 5,300 tons of butter.
Korean waters contain some of the best fishing areas in the world. The fishing fleet consisted of 91,608 ships in 2004. According to the government, the total catch in 2004 was 2.52 million tons. Mackerel and anchovies account for about half the coastal fish landings. Alaskan pollock and tuna provided most of the deep-sea catch. In 2004, fisheries exports were valued at $1.27 billion.
About 63% of the ROK’s land area (6.2 million hectares, or 15.4 million acres), are covered by forests. Most of the original forests were destroyed during the Korean War and have been transformed into pine forests under a massive government reforestation program. Estimated production of roundwood in 2004 was 4.1 million cubic meters (146 million cubic feet). Sawn wood production was 4.38 million cubic meters (154 million cu feet).
Yearly Balance of Trade
The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).
The ROK has limited supplies of iron ore, coal, copper, lead, and zinc. In 2004, a total of 496,000 metric tons of iron ore and concentrate (gross weight) were produced. Output of mined zinc in that same year was just 14 metric tons, and lead mine output was only 40 metric tons. The ROK also produced gold, nickel, and silver. Among industrial minerals, the ROK produced hydraulic cement, graphite, kaolin, limestone, and talc.
Cars, ships, steel, electronics equipment, petrochemicals, apparel, and semiconductors are the ROK’s leading exports. Oil and related products, chemicals, and raw materials are major imports.
Selected Social Indicators
The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.
|Indicator||Korea (ROK)||Low-income countries||High-income countries||United States|
|sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.|
|Per capita gross national income (GNI)*||$20,530||$2,258||$31,009||$39,820|
|Population growth rate||0.8%||2%||0.8%||1.2%|
|People per square kilometer of land||487||80||30||32|
|Life expectancy in years: male||74||58||76||75|
|Number of physicians per 1,000 people||1.6||0.4||3.7||2.3|
|Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)||30||43||16||15|
|Literacy rate (15 years and older)||98%||65%||>95%||99%|
|Television sets per 1,000 people||459||84||735||938|
|Internet users per 1,000 people||657||28||538||630|
|Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)||4,291||501||5,410||7,843|
|CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)||10.57||0.85||12.97||19.92|
|* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.|
|n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than|
In 2004, electric and electronic products accounted for 34.6% of the country’s exports, with passenger cars in second place at 9.7% of all exports. Electric and electronic machinery accounted for the largest portion of the country’s imports that same year, at 22.3%, followed by crude oil at 13.3%, and machinery and equipment at 12.6%.
The United States, China, and Japan have continued to be the ROK’s chief trading partners, although potential new markets in Eastern Europe and the rest of Asia are being explored. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have been major providers of oil and liquefied natural gas. Australia is a leading supplier of iron ore, coal, and grains.
In 2004, China was the leading market for South Korean goods, accounting for 19.6% of all exports, followed by the United States at 16.9% and Japan at 8.5% of all exports.
South Korea has no known reserves of crude oil or natural gas and must import all that it uses. However, the country does have coal, which is the chief fossil fuel produced. In 2002 a total of 3.65 million tons were produced, all of it anthracite or hard coal. However, South Korea’s demand for coal far outstrips production, so imports are needed to make up the difference.
In 2004, imports of petroleum products were estimated at 2.263 million barrels per day. In 2003, South Korea imported 21.11 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
In 2002, electric power output totaled 287.994 billion kilowatt-hours, with fossil fuel plants accounting for 59.3% of all electricity produced, followed by nuclear plants at 39.2%. The remaining output came from hydroelectric sources.
Old-age, disability, and survivors’ insurance is provided to all residents between the ages of 19 and 59. Medical benefits are provided to all permanent residents, and workers’ compensation is extended to employees of firms with five or more workers.
The wage of the average female worker is roughly half of that of the average male worker. Divorce for the most part remains socially unacceptable in Korean society, and this leads many women to remain in abusive marriages. A sexual harassment law went into effect in 1999.
Citizenship in South Korea is based exclusively upon genealogy. As a result, many Chinese who were born and raised in South Korea are deprived of citizenship rights.
In the mid-1990s, medical facilities included 236 general hospitals, 12,629 clinics, and 53 herbal-doctor hospitals. As of 2006, there were an estimated 16 physicians per 100,000 people. In 2005, life expectancy was 76.85 years. As of 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was about 8,300. Deaths from AIDS in 2003 were estimated at 200.
A housing shortage continues to plague the nation, especially in large cities, where shanty-towns house many new arrivals coming in from rural areas. According to 2002 estimates, there were 11,892,000 housing units nationwide and 12,099,000 households. Most new housing units consisted of apartment buildings.
Elementary school covers a six-year program that is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Secondary education begins at age 12 and lasts for up to six years. The student-to-teacher ratio averaged 30 to 1 in 2006 for primary schools. Primary school enrollment that same year was estimated at around 100% of all age-eligible children. About 87% of those eligible attended secondary school in 2003.
The leading government university is Seoul National University. The country had a total of 121 colleges and universities in 1996, along with 335 graduate schools. In 2003, about 85% of all age-eligible students were enrolled in some sort of higher or post secondary school program. As of 2005, the adult literacy rate was estimated at around 98%.
In 2003, there were an estimated 538 mainline telephones, 701 mobile phones, and 558 personal computers for every 1,000 people. In 2006, an estimated 657 out of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. In 2004, there were 894 secure Internet servers in the country. As of 2004, there were 58 AM and 150 FM radio stations, and 64 television broadcast stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,034 radios and 459 television sets for every 1,000 people.
Most of the leading newspapers are published in Seoul. The leading Korean-language newspapers, with their estimated daily circulations (in 2002), include Dong-A Ilbo, 2,150,000; Joongang Ilbo, 2,020,000; Hankook Ilbo, 2,000,000; Choson Ilbo, 1,960,000; Kyung-hyang Shinmun, 1,478,540; and Seoul Shinmun, 700,000.
In 2003, there were 4,753,604 foreign visitors to South Korea. The number of hotel rooms in that same year totaled 56,196, with a 51% occupancy rate. Tourist receipts in 2003 reached $6.9 billion that year.
Major tourist attractions are Seoul, the former royal capital of the Yi (or Li) Dynasty, and the city of Kyongju, with its treasures from the ancient kingdom of Silla.
Soccer and baseball are the most popular modern sports. Traditional sports for men are wrestling, archery, kite fighting, and t’aekwondo (a martial art). Popular games include changgi, or Korean chess, with pieces different from the European form; and yut, or Korean dice, played with four wooden sticks.
The dominant political figures of the contemporary period in the ROK have been Syngman Rhee (1875–1965), president from 1948 to 1960; and Park Chung-hee (1917–1979), president from 1963 until his assassination in 1979. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon (Mun Son-myong, 1920–), the controversial founder of the Tong-il (Unification) Church, and Kyung Wha Chung (Chung Kyung-wha, 1943–), a violinist, have both become internationally known.
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