Background: An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - 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, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK 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. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. President LEE Myung-bak has pursued a policy of global engagement since taking office in February 2008, highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010. Serious tensions with North Korea have punctuated inter-Korean relations in recent years, including the North's sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 and its artillery attack on South Korean soldiers and citizens in November 2010.
Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Area land: 96,920 sq km
Area water: 2,800 sq km
Coastline: 2,413 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Korea
Country name conventional short form: South Korea
Country name former: Republic of Korea
Population: 48,754,657 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.7% (male 3,980,541/female 3,650,631); 15-64 years: 72.9% (male 18,151,023/female 17,400,809); 65 years and over: 11.4% (male 2,259,621/female 3,312,032) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.23% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 8.55 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 6.26 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.069 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female; total population: 1 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.16 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 4.37 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 3.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.05 years; male: 75.84 years; female: 82.49 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.23 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 9,500 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 500 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Korean(s); adjective: Korean;
Ethnic groups: homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese);
Religions: Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census);
Languages: Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 97.9%; male: 99.2%; female: 96.6% (2002);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.467 trillion (2010 est.); $1.383 trillion (2009 est.); $1.38 trillion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $986.3 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 6.1% (2010 est.); 0.2% (2009 est.); 2.3% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $30,200 (2010 est.); $28,500 (2009 est.); $28,500 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3%; industry: 39.4%; services: 57.6% (2008 est.);
Population below poverty line: 15% (2006 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.7%; highest 10%: 24.2% (2007);
Labor force: 24.62 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 7.3%; industry: 24.3%; services: 68.4% (2010 est.);
Unemployment rate: 3.3% (2010 est.); 3.7% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $248.3 billion; expenditures: $267.3 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel;
Industrial production growth rate: 12.1% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 417 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 402 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2010);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2010);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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The Secretary of State traveled to four leading Asian countries in her first foreign diplomatic foray.
If U.S. forces stationed in South Korea become deployable as task forces in Northeast Asia, South Korea may have to spend $60 billion for national defense until 2020.
In an internvew, a top Chinese government think tank scholar outlines Seoul's options.
In an on-going effort to make the country a “hub of Northeast Asia,” South Korea is taking steps to develop its largest island, Jeju, as a major international center.