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total: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km

Area—comparative: slightly larger than Indiana

Coastline: 2,413 km

Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter

Terrain: mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south

Natural resources: coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower

Environment—current issues: air pollution in large cities; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing 

Population: 46,416,796 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 22% (male 5,505,564; female 4,894,780)
15-64 years: 71% (male 16,772,319; female 16,272,145)
65 years and over: 7% (male 1,126,963; female 1,845,025) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.01% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 16.08 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 5.67 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 7.79 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 73.95 years
male: 70.37 years
female: 78 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.79 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Ethnic groups: homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)

Religions: Christianity 49%, Buddhism 47%, Confucianism 3%, pervasive folk religion (shamanism), Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way), and other 1%

Languages: Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male: 99.3%
female: 96.7% (1995 est.) 

National capital: Seoul

Independence: 15 August 1945; note—date of liberation from Japanese colonial rule

National holiday: Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)

Constitution: 25 February 1988

Suffrage: 20 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Grand National Party (GNP), CHO Sun, president; National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), Kim Dae-jung, president; United Liberal Democrats (ULD), PAK Tae-chun, president; New People's Party (NPP), YI In-che, president
note: subsequent to the legislative election of April 1996 the following parties disbanded—New Korea Party (NKP) and Democratic Party (DP) 

Economy—overview: As one of the Four Dragons of East Asia, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth. Three decades ago its GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Today its GDP per capita is eight times India's, 15 times North Korea's, and already up with the lesser economies of the European Union. This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997/98 exposed certain longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. Also, a number of private sector conglomerates are near bankruptcy. At yearend 1997, an international effort, spearheaded by the IMF, was underway to shore up reserves and stabilize the economy. Growth in 1998 will be sharply cut. Long-term growth will depend on how successfully South Korea implements planned economic reforms that would bolster the financial sector, improve corporate management, and open the economy further to foreign participation.

GDP—real growth rate: 6% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 8%
industry: 45%
services: 47% (1991 est.)

Agriculture—products: rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish catch of 2.9 million metric tons, seventh largest in world

total value: $129.8 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: electronic and electrical equipment, machinery, steel, automobiles, ships; textiles, clothing, footwear; fish
partners: US 17%, EU 13%, Japan 12% (1995)

total value: $150.2 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, textiles, organic chemicals, grains
partners: US 22%, Japan 21%, EU 13% (1995)

Debt—external: $154 billion (1998 est.)

Currency: 1 South Korean won (W) = 100 chun (theoretical) 

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 13,849,615 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 8,837,541 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $17.4 billion (1996)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 3.3% (1996)

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