Planning a trip to Korea, South?

Find out what visa options are available for your nationality.
Access requirements, application forms, and online ordering.

Economy of Korea, South

Over the past several decades, the Republic of Korea has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth, which has allowed the country to rise from the rubble of the Korean War into the ranks of the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD). Today, South Korea is the United States' seventh-largest trading partner and is the 15th-largest economy in the world. In the early 1960s, the government of Park Chung Hee instituted sweeping economic policy changes emphasizing exports and labor-intensive light industries, leading to rapid debt-financed industrial expansion. The government carried out a currency reform, strengthened financial institutions, and introduced flexible economic planning. In the 1970s Korea began directing fiscal and financial policies toward promoting heavy and chemical industries, consumer electronics, and automobiles. Manufacturing continued to grow rapidly in the 1980s and early 1990s. In recent years, Korea's economy moved away from the centrally planned, government-directed investment model toward a more market-oriented one. South Korea bounced back from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis with assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but its recovery was based largely on extensive financial reforms that restored stability to markets. These economic reforms, pushed by President Kim Dae-jung, helped Korea return to growth, with growth rates of 10% in 1999 and 9% in 2000. The slowing global economy and falling exports slowed growth to 3.3% in 2001, prompting consumer stimulus measures that led to 7.0% growth in 2002. Consumer overspending and rising household debt, along with external factors, slowed growth to near 3% again in 2003. Economic performance in 2004 improved to 4.6% due to an increase in exports, and remained at or above 4% in 2005, 2006, and 2007. With the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in the third quarter of 2008, annual GDP growth slowed to 2.3% in 2008 and just 0.2% in 2009. Economists are concerned that South Korea's economic growth potential has fallen because of a rapidly aging population and structural problems that are becoming increasingly apparent. Foremost among these structural concerns are the rigidity of South Korea's labor regulations, the need for more constructive relations between management and workers, the country's underdeveloped financial markets, and a general lack of regulatory transparency. Korean policy makers are increasingly worried about diversion of corporate investment to China and other lower wage countries, and by Korea's falling foreign direct investment (FDI). President Lee Myung-bak was elected in December 2007 on a platform that promised to boost Korea's economic growth rate through deregulation, tax reform, increased FDI, labor reform, and free trade agreements (FTAs) with major markets. President Lee’s economic agenda necessarily shifted in the final months of 2008 to dealing with the global economic crisis. In 2009, the economy responded well to a robust fiscal stimulus package and low interest rates. North-South Economic Ties Two-way trade between North and South Korea, which was first legalized in 1988, rose to almost $1.82 billion in 2008 before declining sharply thereafter. Until recently, South Korea was North Korea's second-largest trading partner after China. Much of this trade was related to out-processing or assembly work undertaken by South Korean firms in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Much of the work done in North Korea has been funded by South Korea, but this assistance was halted in 2008 except for energy aid (heavy fuel oil) authorized under the Six-Party Talks. Many of these economic ties became important symbols of hope for the eventual reunification of the peninsula. For example, after the June 2000 North-South summit, the two Koreas reconnected their east and west coast railroads and roads where they cross the DMZ and improved these transportation routes. South Korean tour groups used the east coast road to travel from South Korea to Mt. Geumgang in North Korea beginning in 2003, although the R.O.K. suspended tours to Mt. Geumgang in July 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a D.P.R.K. soldier. Unfortunately, North-South economic ties were seriously damaged by escalating tensions following North Korea’s torpedoing of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010. In September 2010, South Korea suspended all inter-Korean trade with the exception of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. As of mid-November 2010, economic ties had not seen signs of revival. GDP (purchasing power parity in 2010): $1.459 trillion. Real GDP growth rate: (2007) 5.1%; (2008) 2.3%; (2009) 0.2%; (2010) 6.1%. GDP per capita (2009, current U.S. $): $17,074. Unemployment rate (2010): 3.3%. Inflation rate (consumer prices): (2008) 4.7%; (2009) 2.8%. Natural resources: Coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential. Agriculture: Products --rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, fish. Arable land --16.58% of land area. Industry: Electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel. Trade (2009): Exports --$363.5 billion: semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals. Imports --$323.1 billion: crude oil, food, electronics and electronic equipment, machinery, transportation equipment, steel, organic chemicals, plastics, base metals and articles. Major export markets (2009)--China (23.2%), U.S. (10.1%), Japan (5.8%), Hong Kong (5.3%), Singapore (3.6%). Major importers to South Korea (2009)--China (16.8%), Japan (15.3%), U.S. (9.0%), Saudi Arabia (6.1%), Australia (4.6%).

Geography of Korea, South

Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea Geographic coordinates: 37 00 N, 127 30 E Map references: Asia Area: total: 98,480 sq km land: 98,190 sq km water: 290 sq km Area - comparative: slightly larger than Indiana Land boundaries: total: 238 km border countries: North Korea 238 km Coastline: 2,413 km Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM continental shelf: not specified exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM; between 3 NM and 12 NM in the Korea Strait Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter Terrain: mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m Natural resources: coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential Land use: arable land: 19% permanent crops: 2% permanent pastures: 1% forests and woodland: 65% other: 13% (1993 est.) Irrigated land: 13,350 sq km (1993 est.) Natural hazards: occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest Environment - current issues: air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing Environment - international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol Geography - note: strategic location on Korea Strait

Government of Korea, South

The Republic of Korea (commonly known as "South Korea") is a republic with powers nominally shared among the presidency, the legislature, and the judiciary, but traditionally dominated by the president. The president is chief of state and is elected for a single term of 5 years. The 299 members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to 4-year terms; elections for the assembly were held on April 9, 2008. South Korea's judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. The judiciary is independent under the constitution. The country has nine provinces and seven administratively separate cities--the capital of Seoul, along with Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon and Ulsan. Political parties include the Grand National Party (GNP), Democratic Party (DP), Liberty Forward Party (LFP), New Progressive Party (NPP), Pro-Park Alliance (PPA), and Renewal Korea Party (RKP). Suffrage is universal at age 19 (lowered from 20 in 2005). Principal Government Officials President--Lee Myung-bak Prime Minister--Kim Hwang-sik Minister of Strategy and Finance--Bahk Jae-Wan Minister of Education, Science and Technology--Lee Ju-hoo Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade--Kim Sung-hwan Minister of Unification--Hyun In-taek Minister of Justice--Lee Kwi-nam Minister of National Defense--Kim Kwan-jin Minister of Public Administration and Security--Maeng Hyung-Kyu Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism--Choung Byoung-gug Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries--Suh Kyu-Yong Minister of Knowledge Economy--Choi Joong-kyung Minister of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs--Chin Soo-hee Minister of Environment--Yoo Young-sook Minister of Labor--Lee Chae-pil Minister of Gender Equality--Paik Hee-young Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs--Kwan Do-youp Director of the National Intelligence Service--Won Sei-hoon Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security--Chun Yung-woo Chairman of Financial Services Commission--Kim Seok-dong Ambassador to the U.S.--Han Duk-soo Ambassador to the UN--Park In-kook Korea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-5600). Consulates general are located in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Honolulu, and Hagatna (Guam). Type: Republic with powers shared between the president, the legislature, and the courts. Liberation: August 15, 1945. Constitution: July 17, 1948; last revised 1987. Branches: Executive--President (chief of state); Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court and appellate courts; Constitutional Court. Subdivisions: Nine provinces, seven administratively separate cities (Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan). Political parties: Grand National Party (GNP); Democratic Party (DP), formerly known as United Democratic Party (UDP); Liberal Forward Party (LFP); Democratic Labor Party (DLP); Creative Korea Party (CKP) Suffrage: Universal at 19. Central government budget (2007): Expenditures--$256.6 billion. Defense (2007): 2.7% of GDP.

Back to Top

History of Korea, South

The myth of Korea's foundation by the god-king Tangun in BC 2333 embodies the homogeneity and self-sufficiency valued by the Korean people. Korea experienced many invasions by its larger neighbors in its 2,000 years of recorded history. The country repelled numerous foreign invasions despite domestic strife, in part due to its protected status in the Sino-centric regional political model during Korea's Chosun dynasty (1392-1910). Historical antipathies to foreign influence earned Korea the title of "Hermit Kingdom" in the 19th century. With declining Chinese power and a weakened domestic posture at the end of the 19th century, Korea was open to Western and Japanese encroachment. In 1910, Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule over Korea. As a result of Japan's efforts to supplant the Korean language and aspects of Korean culture, memories of Japanese annexation still recall fierce animosity and resentment, especially among older Koreans. Nevertheless, import restrictions on Japanese movies, popular music, fashion, and the like have been lifted, and many Koreans, especially the younger generations, eagerly follow Japanese pop culture. Aspects of Korean culture, including television shows and movies, have also become popular in Japan. Japan's surrender to the Allied Powers in 1945, signaling the end of World War II, only further embroiled Korea in foreign rivalries. Division at the 38th parallel marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. trusteeship over the North and South, respectively. On August 15, 1948 the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) was established, with Syngman Rhee as the first President. On September 9, 1948 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) was established under Kim Il Sung. On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Led by the U.S., a 16-member coalition undertook the first collective action under United Nations Command (UNC). Following China's entry on behalf of North Korea later that year, a stalemate ensued for the final two years of the conflict. Armistice negotiations, initiated in July 1951, were ultimately concluded on July 27, 1953 at Panmunjom, in what is now the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Armistice Agreement was signed by representatives of the Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers, and the U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC). Though the R.O.K. supported the UNC, it refused to sign the Armistice Agreement. A peace treaty has never been signed. The war left almost three million Koreans dead or wounded and millions of others homeless and separated from their families. In the following decades, South Korea experienced political turmoil under autocratic leadership. President Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in April 1960 following a student-led uprising. The Second Republic under the leadership of Chang Myon ended after only one year, when Major General Park Chung-hee led a military coup. Park's rule, which resulted in tremendous economic growth and development but increasingly restricted political freedoms, ended with his assassination in 1979. Subsequently, a powerful group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo Hwan, declared martial law and took power. Throughout the Park and Chun eras, South Korea developed a vocal civil society that led to strong protests against authoritarian rule. Composed primarily of students and labor union activists, protest movements reached a climax after Chun's 1979 coup and declaration of martial law. A confrontation in Gwangju in 1980 left at least 200 civilians dead. Thereafter, pro-democracy activities intensified even more, ultimately forcing political concessions by the government in 1987, including the restoration of direct presidential elections. In 1987, Roh Tae-woo, a former general, was elected president, but additional democratic advances during his tenure resulted in the 1992 election of a long-time pro-democracy activist, Kim Young-sam. Kim became Korea's first civilian elected president in 32 years. The 1997 presidential election and peaceful transition of power marked another step forward in Korea's democratization when Kim Dae-jung, a life-long democracy and human rights activist, was elected from a major opposition party. The transition to an open, democratic system was further consolidated in 2002, when self-educated human rights lawyer, Roh Moo-hyun, won the presidential election on a "participatory government" platform. Most recently, South Koreans voted for a new president in December 2007. Former business executive and Mayor of Seoul Lee Myung-bak's 5-year term begins with his inauguration on February 25, 2008.

People of Korea, South

Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world. Except for a small Chinese community (about 20,000), virtually all Koreans share a common cultural and linguistic heritage. With 48.7 million people inhabiting an area roughly the size of Indiana, South Korea has one of the world's highest population densities. Major population centers are located in the northwest, southeast, and in the plains south of the Seoul-Incheon area. Korea has experienced one of the largest rates of emigration, with ethnic Koreans residing primarily in China (2.4 million), the United States (2.1 million), Japan (600,000), and the countries of the former Soviet Union (532,000). Language The Korean language is related to Japanese and Mongolian. Although it differs grammatically from Chinese and does not use tones, a large number of Chinese cognates exist in Korean. Chinese ideograms are believed to have been brought into Korea sometime before the second century BC. The learned class spoke Korean, but read and wrote Chinese. A phonetic writing system ("hangul") was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong to provide a writing system for commoners who could not read classical Chinese. Modern Korean uses hangul almost exclusively with Chinese characters in limited use for word clarification. Approximately 1,300 Chinese characters are used in modern Korean. English is taught as a second language in most primary and secondary schools. Chinese and Japanese are also widely taught at secondary schools. Religion Freedom of religion is protected under South Korea’s constitution. Roughly half of the South Korean population actively practice some form of religion. Most religious believers in South Korea follow Christianity (29.2% of the population) and Buddhism (22.8%). Although only 0.2% of South Koreans identify themselves as Confucianists, Korean society remains highly imbued with Confucian values and beliefs. A small minority of South Koreans practice Islam, Shamanism (traditional spirit worship), and Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way"); 46.5% of South Koreans practice no religion. Nationality: Noun and adjective --Korean(s). Population (July 2011 est.): 48,754,657. Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 0.23%. Ethnic groups: Korean; small Chinese minority (about 20,000). Religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism, Chondogyo. Language: Korean; English widely taught in junior high and high school. Education: Years compulsory --9. Enrollment --11.5 million. Attendance --middle school 99%, high school 95%. Literacy --98%. Health (2010): Infant mortality rate --4.24/1,000. Life expectancy --78.81 years (men 75.56 years; women 82.28 years). Total labor force (2010): 24.62 million. Labor force by occupation (2010): Services --68.4%; industry --24.3%; agriculture --7.3%.
Travel Document Systems Inc. BBB Business Review

About Us

Travel Document Systems, Inc. (TDS) is a leading visa and passport processing agency. For over 30 years we have served travel professionals, tour operators, and cruise lines, as well as corporate and individual international travelers. TDS specializes in travel that involves visas for more than one country.