South Korea attracts an increasing amount of foreign nationals every year. As such we have provided some information to help you better get to know the country. Please be advised that this information is meant to serve as a reference only, and that you should consult a professional for more in depth statistics.
Official Name: Republic of Korea (ROK) also referred to as South Korea or simply, Korea.
Capital: The capital of the Republic of Korea is Seoul (pronounced Soul).
Location: South Korea is located on the Korean peninsula south of the 38 th parallel. South Korea borders the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), the Sea of Japan, and the Yellow Sea. The Korean peninsula is situated in North East Asia.
Size: The country occupies a total area of 98,480 sq Km. This makes South Korea slightly larger than the US state of Indiana.
Climate: There are four distinct seasons in South Korea. The best time to visit the country is in the autumn (September to November) where the weather is described as pleasant and the sky is usually extremely clear with lots of sun. Winters (November to April) can be extremely cold, and spring (April to May) is usually humid and wet. Summer (May to September) is typified by large numbers of tourists, typhoons, and uncomfortably hot weather.
Population: South Korea has a total population of approximately 49 million people. This makes the nation the 26 th most densely populated country in the world.
Life expectancy at birth: The Republic of Korea has a fairly high life expectancy at birth of 77.23 years. Women in South Korea have a much higher life expectancy than men and on average live to be 81 years old.
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: In terms of the total population of South Korea there is a relatively low prevalence of HIV/Aids in the country with approximately 8,300 people suffering from the disease. In total there have been less than 200 HIV/Aids related deaths in South Korea.
Major illnesses: There is fairly limited risk of disease in South Korea and healthcare standards are high. However you may be at risk for some specific illnesses including Avian Flu, rabies, and Japanese Encephalitis.
Ethnic Groups: South Korea is fairly homogeneous as a society and there is no great prevalence of any other ethnic groups outside of the local Korean populace. There are however approximately 20,000 people of Chinese ethnicity living in the country.
Languages: The official language is Korean, however English is widely taught in schools and many of the younger generations are fluent in the language.
Religion: A number of different religions and faiths are practiced in South Korea. These include; Christian – 26.3% (Protestant – 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist – 23.2%, other or unknown – 1.3%, none or atheist – 49.3%.
Government: South Korea is a republic and has a republican government. The political system in South Korea operates in much the same way as the political systems in Japan and the USA.
Head of State: President Lee Myung-bak (Since February 2008).
Head of Government: Prime Minister Chung Un-chan (Since September 2009).
Military: Due to the conflict of interests that South Korea has with North Korea there is a large military presence throughout the country. There is a mandatory conscription for males between the ages of 20 – 30, and conscripts must serve at least 24 – 28 months depending on the military branch. Women are excluded from service in the artillery, armor, anti air, and Chaplin corps.
Economy: South Korea is world famous for it technological innovations and strong economy. It currently has a GDP that is equal to that of the lesser European Union member states. By successfully integrating government and business, and helping to introducing innovative economic reforms including directed credit, import restrictions, industry sponsorship, and strong labor unions, South Korea has effectively pushed itself into the top tier of economic nations. Low unemployment, surplus exports, equal income distribution, and moderate inflation are all characteristics of the South Korean economy.
GDP: With a Purchasing Power Parity of US$1.196 trillion, and an official GDP of US$ 897.4 billion, South Korea has one of the strongest economies in the world.
South Korea Travel Tips
While visiting new countries can be exhilarating it can also be slightly daunting, knowing what is expected of you as a visitor is important to help your trip realize its full potential. As such we have provided some advice on South Korean laws and customs that will help you experience the country to its fullest. Please bear in mind that this list is only meant to serve as a reference and that you should consult a travel professional before visiting South Korea.
If you expect to be in South Korea for a period of more than two weeks you should register with your country's embassy or consulate. Due to political tensions on the Korean peninsula situations can change abruptly, stay alert for government announcements and follow all official directions in the event of an unfortunate situation.
Crime in South Korea is low; however there have been incidences of petty theft against foreign nationals in all major cities. Take all reasonable care of your valuables, and watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas such as outdoor markets.
Since 1953 the Korean peninsula has been divided into two halves separated along the 38th parallel which operates as a demilitarized zone. There have been sporadic outbursts of fighting in the DMZ between northern and southern troops.
Do not go to the DMZ unaccompanied or without proper authorization as this can lead to severe penalties and due to the heightened tensions you may face the possibility of death.
At present it is not possible to travel to North Korea from South Korea. However, this situation may change in the near future for Korean nationals. If you would like to visit North Korea it is advisable to try and obtain transport inside the People's Republic of China.
If you plan on traveling by taxi in South Korea please be warned that taxi drivers will speak little to no English. It is therefore advisable to have your destination pre-written in Korean to avoid any confusion. If you are traveling to a private address or somewhere outside the main tourist destinations you should also bring a map to show the driver.
South Korea has one of the highest road death rates in the world. Vehicles are automatically assumed to be at fault if there is an accident involving automobiles and pedestrians even where no guilt has been proven. As such, if you plan to drive while you are in Korea make sure you take all necessary precautions and drive with care.
While in South Korea you should carry some form of identification at all times. Make sure that you also carry your next of kin details in the event of an accident. It should be noted that penalties for illegal activities in South Korea are extremely severe and serious offences can lead to jail time or death. In the event of a less serious offence involving a foreign national the foreigner will usually be deported.
If you are a foreign national of Korean descent whose name appears on a South Korean family register you may be liable for compulsory military service, even if you are traveling on a foreign passport.
For all visitors to South Korea you must have at least 6 months validity left on your passport or an outbound flight ticket, otherwise you may not be allowed to enter the country.
South Korea operates on a different mobile (cell) phone transmission band than any other country except for Japan. Most mobile phones purchased outside of Korea or Japan will not work in South Korea with the exception of Quad Band phones. It is possible to get in expensive disposable mobile phones at vending machines throughout the major cities.
If you are planning to relocate to Korea for work, especially a teaching job, you should note that you cannot obtain a work visa for teaching without a four year university degree or a three year degree and the relevant teaching qualifications (ESL). A TOEFL or TEFL certificate alone is insufficient to obtain a teacher work visa.