South Korea - Economic Indicators

Asia-Pacific Daily Briefing: Points for Effort, Not Results

Sep 12, 2018

Download the Asia Daily Briefing South Korea’s labour market is alarmingly weak. The unemployment rate increased from 3.8% in July to 4.2% in August, its highest since January 2010. In seasonally adjusted terms, South Korea added just 5,000 jobs in August from a year earlier and yearly employment growth was flat after being 0.1% in July and 0.4% in June. The job market is at a virtual standstill, with job growth being undermined by declines...

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GDP Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Private Consumption 2018 Q2 215,987 213,254 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Private Consumption 2018 Q2 190,580 189,980 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Government Consumption 2018 Q2 59,634 59,434 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Nominal Gross Domestic Product 2018 Q2 444,123 439,874 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Gross Domestic Product 2018 Q2 397,959 395,605 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Fixed Investment (gross fixed capital formation) 2018 Q2 123,422 127,086 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Investment 2018 Q2 133,880 137,771 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Government Consumption 2018 Q2 71,235 69,724 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Nominal Fixed Investment (gross fixed capital formation) 2018 Q2 135,407 137,643 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Investment 2018 Q2 136,210 136,329 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Price Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Consumer Price Index (CPI) Aug 2018 104.91 104.37 Index 2015=100, NSA Monthly
Producer Price Index (PPI) Jul 2018 104.83 104.45 Index 2010=100, NSA Monthly
Labor Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Unemployment Rate Aug 2018 4.2 3.8 %, SA Monthly
Labor Force Employment Aug 2018 26,721 26,733 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Unemployment Aug 2018 1,179 1,067 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Labor Force Aug 2018 27,900 27,800 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Agriculture Employment 2017 1,363,560 1,359,356 # Annual
Real Wages & Salaries 2017 766,202 734,010 Bil. KRW Annual
Wage & Salaries 2017 Q1 133.51 127.09 Index 2005=100 Quarterly
Total Employment 2016 21,259,243 20,889,257 # Annual
Trade Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Balance of Goods Aug 2018 6,900,000 6,900,000 Ths. US$, NSA Monthly
Exports of Goods Aug 2018 51,200,000 51,900,000 Ths. US$ NSA Monthly
Imports of Goods Aug 2018 44,300,000 44,900,000 Ths. US$ NSA Monthly
Current Account Balance Jul 2018 8,757 7,377 Mil. USD, NSA Monthly
Net Exports 2018 Q2 20,804 20,957 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Imports of Goods and Services 2018 Q2 204,151 210,384 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Exports of Goods and Services 2018 Q2 215,539 214,656 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Exports of Goods and Services 2018 Q2 191,641 189,402 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Net Exports 2018 Q2 11,388 4,272 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Imports of Goods and Services 2018 Q2 170,836 168,444 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Government Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Government Expenditures Mar 2018 116,397 72,531 Bil. KRW, NSA Monthly
Government Revenues Mar 2018 114,632 73,408 Bil. KRW YTD, NSA Monthly
Government Budget Balance Mar 2018 -1,766 877 Bil. KRW YTD, NSA Monthly
Outstanding Public Debt 2018 Q1 433,886 418,823 Mil. USD, NSA Quarterly
Markets Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Lending Rate 20 Sep 2018 1.5 1.5 %, NSA Daily
Stock Market Index 18 Sep 2018 2,308 2,303 Index, NSA Daily
Treasury Bills (over 31 days) Jul 2018 1.84 1.85 % p.a., NSA Monthly
Average Long-term Government Bond Jul 2018 2.55 2.66 % p.a., NSA Monthly
Money Market Rate Jul 2018 1.49 1.49 % p.a., NSA Monthly
Real Estate Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Vacancy Jun 2018 62,050 59,836 #, NSA Monthly
Building Permits 2017 171,875 178,955 Ths. m², NSA Annual
Residential Building Permits 2017 70,255 78,420 Ths. m², NSA Annual
Consumer Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Real Retail Sales 2018 Q2 39,788 39,472 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Retail Sales Dec 2017 123.7 128.9 Index 2010=100, SA Monthly
Consumer Confidence Nov 2017 112.3 109.2 Index, NSA Monthly
Business Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Business Confidence Aug 2018 98.5 98.62 Index long term avg=100, SA Monthly
Industrial Production Jul 2018 105.7 105 Index 2015=100, NSA Monthly
Change in Inventories 2018 Q2 803.7 -1,314 Bil. KRW, SA Quarterly
Real Change in Inventories 2018 Q2 179.1 90.8 Bil. 2010 KRW, SA Quarterly
Demographics Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Birth Rate 2050 7.03 6.97 # per Ths. pop., NSA Annual
Death Rate 2050 16.12 15.81 # per Ths. pop., NSA Annual
Population 2050 47,731,321 48,162,628 Person, NSA Annual
Births 2017 357,700 406,243 #, NSA Annual
Deaths 2017 285,600 280,827 #, NSA Annual
Net Migration 2012 169,634 # Annual

Factbook

Background

Background:
An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the US in 1945. After World War II, a democratic-based government (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 (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside ROK soldiers to defend South Korea from a DPRK invasion supported by China and the Soviet Union. A 1953 armistice split the Peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. PARK Chung-hee took over leadership of the country in a 1961 coup. During his regime, from 1961 to 1979, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea.
South Korea held its first free presidential election under a revised democratic constitution in 1987, with former ROK Army general ROH Tae-woo winning a close race. In 1993, KIM Young-sam (1993-98) became the first civilian president of South Korea's new democratic era. President KIM Dae-jung (1998-2003) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his contributions to South Korean democracy and his "Sunshine" policy of engagement with North Korea. President PARK Geun-hye, daughter of former ROK President PARK Chung-hee, took office in February 2013 as South Korea's first female leader. In December 2016, the National Assembly passed an impeachment motion against President PARK over her alleged involvement in a corruption and influence-peddling scandal, immediately suspending her presidential authorities. The impeachment was upheld in March 2017, triggering an early presidential election in May 2017 won by MOON Jae-in. South Korea hosted the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February 2018, in which North Korea also participated. Discord with North Korea has permeated inter-Korean relations for much of the past decade, highlighted by the North's attacks on a South Korean ship and island in 2010, the exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ in 2015, and multiple nuclear and missile tests in 2016 and 2017. North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, dispatch of a senior delegation to Seoul, and the planned April 27 inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom – the first in 11 years and the first-ever to be held at the inter-Korean border – appear to have ushered in a temporary period of respite.

Geography

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: 99,720 sq km
land: 96,920 sq km
water: 2,800 sq km
country comparison to the world: 110
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Indiana
Area comparison map:
Land boundaries:
total: 237 km
border countries (1): North Korea 237 km
Coastline:
2,413 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate:
temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter; cold winters
Terrain:
mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
Elevation:
mean elevation: 282 m
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:
agricultural land: 18.1%
arable land 15.3%; permanent crops 2.2%; permanent pasture 0.6%
forest: 63.9%
other: 18% (2011 est.)
Irrigated land:
7,780 sq km (2012)
Population - distribution:
with approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populated
Natural hazards:
occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
volcanism: Halla (1,950 m) is considered historically active although it has not erupted in many centuries
Environment - current issues:
air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing; transboundary pollution
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
strategic location on Korea Strait; about 3,000 mostly small and uninhabited islands lie off the western and southern coasts

People & Society

Population:
51,181,299 (July 2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 27
Nationality:
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous
Languages:
Korean, English (widely taught in elementary, junior high, and high school)
Religions:
Protestant 19.7%, Buddhist 15.5%, Catholic 7.9%, none 56.9%
note: many people practice Confucianism, regardless of their religion or not having a religious affiliation (2015 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 13.21% (male 3,484,398/female 3,276,984)
15-24 years: 12.66% (male 3,415,998/female 3,065,144)
25-54 years: 45.52% (male 11,992,462/female 11,303,726)
55-64 years: 14.49% (male 3,660,888/female 3,756,947)
65 years and over: 14.12% (male 3,080,601/female 4,144,151) (2017 est.)
population pyramid:
Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 36.7
youth dependency ratio: 19
elderly dependency ratio: 17.7
potential support ratio: 5.6 (2015 est.)
Median age:
total: 41.8 years
male: 40.2 years
female: 43.4 years (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
Population growth rate:
0.48% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
Birth rate:
8.3 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 220
Death rate:
6 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
Net migration rate:
2.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
Population distribution:
with approximately 70% of the country considered mountainous, the country's population is primarily concentrated in the lowland areas, where density is quite high; Gyeonggi Province in the northwest, which surrounds the capital of Seoul and contains the port of Incheon, is the most densely populated province; Gangwon in the northeast is the least populated
Urbanization:
urban population: 82.7% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 0.55% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Major urban areas - population:
SEOUL (capital) 9.774 million; Busan (Pusan) 3.216 million; Incheon (Inch'on) 2.685 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.244 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.564 million; Gwangju (Kwangju) 1.536 million (2015)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.12 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
Mother's mean age at first birth:
31 years (2014 est.)
Maternal mortality ratio:
11 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
Infant mortality rate:
total: 3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 215
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 82.5 years
male: 79.3 years
female: 85.8 years (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Total fertility rate:
1.26 children born/woman (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 219
Contraceptive prevalence rate:
80%
note: percent of women aged 15-44 (2009)
Health expenditures:
7.4% of GDP (2014)
country comparison to the world: 72
Physicians density:
2.33 physicians/1,000 population (2016)
Hospital bed density:
11.5 beds/1,000 population (2015)
Drinking water source:
improved:
urban: 99.7% of population
rural: 87.9% of population
total: 97.8% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0.3% of population
rural: 12.1% of population
total: 2.2% of population (2012 est.)
Sanitation facility access:
improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
NA
Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
4.7% (2016)
country comparison to the world: 184
Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
0.7% (2010)
country comparison to the world: 135
Education expenditures:
5.1% of GDP (2015)
country comparison to the world: 75
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 17 years
male: 17 years
female: 16 years (2013)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 10.7%
male: 11%
female: 10.5% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Korea
conventional short form: South Korea
local long form: Taehan-min'guk
local short form: Han'guk
abbreviation: ROK
etymology: derived from the Chinese name for Goryeo, which was the Korean dynasty that united the peninsula in the 10th century A.D.; the South Korean name "Han'guk" derives from the long form, "Daehan-min'guk," which is itself a derivation from "Daehan-je'guk," which means "the Great Empire of the Han"; "Han" refers to the "Sam'han" or the "Three Han Kingdoms" (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla from the Three Kingdoms Era, 1st-7th centuries A.D.)
Government type:
presidential republic
Capital:
name: Seoul; note - Sejong, located some 120 km (75 mi) south of Seoul, is being developed as a new capital
geographic coordinates: 37 33 N, 126 59 E
time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city (teugbyeolsi), and 1 special self-governing city (teukbyeoljachisi)
provinces: Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeonggi, Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)
metropolitan cities: Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejeon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan
special city: Seoul
special self-governing city: Sejong
Independence:
15 August 1945 (from Japan)
National holiday:
Liberation Day, 15 August (1945)
Constitution:
history: several previous; latest passed by National Assembly 12 October 1987, approved in referendum 28 October 1987, effective 25 February 1988
amendments: proposed by the president or by majority support of the National Assembly membership; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership, approval in a referendum by more than one-half of the votes by more than one-half of eligible voters, and promulgation by the president; amended several times, last in 1987 (2018)
Legal system:
mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought
International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Citizenship:
citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Korea
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
Suffrage:
19 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President MOON Jae-in (since 10 May 2017); note - President PARK Geun-hye (since 25 February 2013) was impeached by the National Assembly on 9 December 2016; PARK's impeachment was upheld by the Constitutional Court and she was removed from office on 9 March 2017
head of government: Prime Minister LEE Nak-yon (since 1 June 2017); Deputy Prime Ministers KIM Dong-yeon (since 9 June 2017), KIM Sang-kon (since 4 July 2017)
cabinet: State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a single 5-year term; election last held on 9 May 2017 (next to be held in 2022); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
election results: MOON Jae-in elected president; percent of vote - MOON Jae-in (DP) 41.1%, HONG Joon-pyo (LKP) 25.5%, AHN Cheol-soo (PP) 21.4%, other 12.0%
Legislative branch:
description: unicameral National Assembly or Kuk Hoe (300 seats; 246 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 54 directly elected in a single national constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 13 April 2016 (next to be held in 2020)
election results: percent of vote by party - NFP 33.5%, PP 26.7%, MPK 25.5%, JP 7.2%, other 7.1%; seats by party - MPK 123, NFP 122, PP 38, JP 6, independent 11
note: as of May 2018, seats by party - DP 105, LKP 96, Peace and Justice 16, BFP 17, MP 1, Korean Patriots' Party 1, independent 5, vacant 7
Judicial branch:
highest court(s): Supreme Court of South Korea (consists of a chief justice and 13 justices); Constitutional Court (consists of a court head and 8 justices)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly; other justices appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the chief justice and consent of the National Assembly; position of the chief justice is a 6-year non-renewable term; other justices serve 6-year renewable terms; Constitutional Court justices appointed - 3 by the president, 3 by the National Assembly, and 3 by the Supreme Court chief justice; court head serves until retirement at age 70, while other justices serve 6-year renewable terms with mandatory retirement at age 65
subordinate courts: High Courts; District Courts; Branch Courts (organized under the District Courts); specialized courts for family and administrative issues
Political parties and leaders:
Bareun Future Party or BFP [YOO Seong-min, PARK Joo-sun] (merged of the Bareun Party and the People's Party)
Democratic Party or DP [CHOO Mi-ae] (renamed from Minjoo Party of Korea or MPK in October 2016; formerly New Politics Alliance for Democracy or NPAD, which was a merger of the Democratic Party or DP (formerly DUP) [KIM Han-gil] and the New Political Vision Party or NPVP [AHN Cheol-soo] in March 2014)
Justice Party or JP [LEE Jeong-mi]
Liberty Korea Party or LKP [HONG Jueen-pyo] (formerly the New Frontier Party (NFP) or Saenuri and before that the Grand National Party [HONG Jueen-Pyo])
Minjung Party or MP (formed from the merger of the New People's Party (formerly the New People's Political Party or NPP) and the People's United Party or PUP)
Korean Patriots' Party [CHO Won-jin]
Parliamentary Group for Peace and Justice [ROH Hoe-chan] (parliamentary group made up of PDP and JP)
Party for Democracy and Peace or PDP [CHO Bae-sook]
People's Party or PP [AHN Cheol-soo]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Christian Council of Korea
Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice
Federation of Korean Trade Unions
Korea Women's Association United
Korea Women's Hotline
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
Korean Veterans' Association
Lawyers for a Democratic Society
National Council of Churches in Korea
People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
International organization participation:
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, Arctic Council (observer), ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador CHO Yoon-je (since 29 November 2017)
chancery: 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX: [1] (202) 797-0595
consulate(s) general: Agana (Guam), Anchorage (AK), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)Charg? d'Affaires, Marc KNAPPER (since 20 January 2017)
embassy: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
mailing address: US Embassy Seoul, 9600 Seoul Place Washington, D.C., 20521-9600
telephone: [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX: [82] (2) 725-0152
Flag description:
white with a red (top) and blue yin-yang symbol in the center; there is a different black trigram from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes) in each corner of the white field; the South Korean national flag is called Taegukki; white is a traditional Korean color and represents peace and purity; the blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin, while the red symbolizes the opposite positive forces of the yang; each trigram (kwae) denotes one of the four universal elements, which together express the principle of movement and harmony
National symbol(s):
taegeuk (yin yang symbol), Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon); national colors: red, white, blue, black
National anthem:
name: "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
lyrics/music: YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
note: adopted 1948, well-known by 1910; both North Korea's and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics

Economy

Economy - overview:
After emerging from the 1950-53 war with North Korea, South Korea emerged as one of the 20th century’s most remarkable economic success stories, becoming a developed, globally connected, high-technology society within decades. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorest countries in the world. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.
Beginning in the 1960s under President PARK Chung-hee, the government promoted the import of raw materials and technology, encouraged saving and investment over consumption, kept wages low, and directed resources to export-oriented industries that remain important to the economy to this day. Growth surged under these policies, and frequently reached double-digits in the 1960s and 1970s. Growth gradually moderated in the 1990s as the economy matured, but remained strong enough to propel South Korea into the ranks of the advanced economies of the OECD by 1997. These policies also led to the emergence of family-owned chaebol conglomerates such as Daewoo, Hyundai, and Samsung, which retained their dominant positions even as the government loosened its grip on the economy amid the political changes of the 1980s and 1990s.
The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 hit South Korea’s companies hard because of their excessive reliance on short-term borrowing, and GDP ultimately plunged by 7% in 1998. South Korea tackled difficult economic reforms following the crisis, including restructuring some chaebols, increasing labor market flexibility, and opening up to more foreign investment and imports. These steps lead to a relatively rapid economic recovery. South Korea also began expanding its network of free trade agreements to help bolster exports, and has since implemented 16 free trade agreements covering 58 countries—including the United State and China—that collectively cover more than three-quarters of global GDP.
In 2017, the election of President MOON Jae-in brought a surge in consumer confidence, in part, because of his successful efforts to increase wages and government spending. These factors combined with an uptick in export growth to drive real GDP growth to more than 3%, despite disruptions in South Korea’s trade with China over the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea.
In 2018 and beyond, South Korea will contend with gradually slowing economic growth - in the 2-3% range - not uncommon for advanced economies. This could be partially offset by efforts to address challenges arising from its rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, continued dominance of the chaebols, and heavy reliance on exports rather than domestic consumption. Socioeconomic problems also persist, and include rising inequality, poverty among the elderly, high youth unemployment, long working hours, low worker productivity, and corruption.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$2.027 trillion (2017 est.)
$1.967 trillion (2016 est.)
$1.913 trillion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 15
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.53 trillion (2017 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
3% (2017 est.)
2.8% (2016 est.)
2.8% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$39,400 (2017 est.)
$38,400 (2016 est.)
$37,500 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 45
Gross national saving:
37.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
36.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
36.6% of GDP (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
GDP - composition, by end use:
household consumption: 47.8%
government consumption: 15.2%
investment in fixed capital: 29.4%
investment in inventories: 0.3%
exports of goods and services: 43.9%
imports of goods and services: -36.7% (2017 est.)
GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 2.2%
industry: 38.8%
services: 59.1% (2017 est.)
Agriculture - products:
rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, fish
Industries:
electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel
Industrial production growth rate:
3.5% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87
Labor force:
27.47 million (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 4.9%
industry: 24.1%
services: 71% (2016 est.)
Unemployment rate:
3.8% (2017 est.)
3.7% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43
Population below poverty line:
12.5% (2015 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 6.8%
highest 10%: 48.5% (2015 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
34.1 (2015 est.)
34.1 (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 103
Budget:
revenues: $351.6 billion
expenditures: $338 billion (2017 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
23% of GDP (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
0.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
Public debt:
43.3% of GDP (2017 est.)
45.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.9% (2017 est.)
1% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
Central bank discount rate:
1.25% (31 December 2016 est.)
1.5% (31 December 2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
3.4% (31 December 2017 est.)
3.37% (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
Stock of narrow money:
$742.5 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$658.7 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
Stock of broad money:
$2.167 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.993 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
Stock of domestic credit:
$2.683 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$2.515 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.305 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.28 trillion (31 December 2015 est.)
$1.269 trillion (31 December 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
Current account balance:
$85.14 billion (2017 est.)
$98.68 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
Exports:
$552.3 billion (2017 est.)
$511.8 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
Exports - commodities:
semiconductors, petrochemicals, automobile/auto parts, ships, wireless communication equipment, flat displays, steel, electronics, plastics, computers
Exports - partners:
China 25.1%, US 13.5%, Vietnam 6.6%, Hong Kong 6.6%, Japan 4.9% (2016)
Imports:
$448.4 billion (2017 est.)
$391.3 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
Imports - commodities:
crude oil/petroleum products, semiconductors, natural gas, coal, steel, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, fine chemicals, textiles
Imports - partners:
China 21.4%, Japan 11.7%, US 10.7%, Germany 4.7% (2016)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$374.8 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$371.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Debt - external:
$376.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$358.2 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$193.6 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$185 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$342.4 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$310.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 21
Exchange rates:
South Korean won (KRW) per US dollar -
1,136.7 (2017 est.)
1,160.77 (2016 est.)
1,160.77 (2015 est.)
1,130.95 (2014 est.)
1,052.96 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access:
electrification - total population: 100% (2016)
Electricity - production:
528.1 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Electricity - consumption:
497 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 156
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
Electricity - installed generating capacity:
103 million kW (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
Electricity - from fossil fuels:
67.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
Electricity - from nuclear fuels:
21.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:
1.7% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
Electricity - from other renewable sources:
7.2% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 81
Crude oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
Crude oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
Crude oil - imports:
2.942 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 5
Crude oil - proved reserves:
NA bbl (1 January 2017 est.)
Refined petroleum products - production:
3.114 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
Refined petroleum products - consumption:
2.63 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
Refined petroleum products - exports:
1.343 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
Refined petroleum products - imports:
935,500 bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
Natural gas - production:
188 million cu m (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
Natural gas - consumption:
69.63 billion cu m (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 19
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132
Natural gas - imports:
43.43 billion cu m (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
Natural gas - proved reserves:
7.079 billion cu m (1 January 2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
599.3 million Mt (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 28,035,600
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 55 (July 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
Telephones - mobile cellular:
total: 61,295,538
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 120 (July 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international services featuring rapid incorporation of new technologies
domestic: fixed-line and mobile-cellular services widely available with the latter subscribership up to about 120 per 100 persons; rapid assimilation of a full range of telecommunications technologies leading to a boom in e-commerce
international: country code - 82; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 66 (2016)
Broadcast media:
multiple national TV networks with 2 of the 3 largest networks publicly operated; the largest privately owned network, Seoul Broadcasting Service (SBS), has ties with other commercial TV networks; cable and satellite TV subscription services available; publicly operated radio broadcast networks and many privately owned radio broadcasting networks, each with multiple affiliates, and independent local stations (2017)
Internet country code:
.kr
Internet users:
total: 44.153 million
percent of population: 89.9% (July 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17

Transportation

National air transport system:
number of registered air carriers: 12
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 348
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 65,482,307
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 11.297 billion mt-km (2015)
Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:
HL (2016)
Airports:
111 (2013)
country comparison to the world: 53
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 71
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 19
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 23 (2017)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 40
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 38 (2013)
Heliports:
466 (2013)
Pipelines:
gas 3,790 km; oil 16 km; refined products 889 km (2017)
Railways:
total: 3,979 km
standard gauge: 3,979 km 1.435-m gauge (2,727 km electrified) (2016)
country comparison to the world: 48
Roadways:
total: 100,428 km
paved: 92,795 km (includes 4,193 km of expressways)
unpaved: 7,633 km (2016)
country comparison to the world: 46
Waterways:
1,600 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2011)
country comparison to the world: 50
Merchant marine:
total: 1,907
by type: bulk carrier 100, container ship 89, general cargo 394, oil tanker 201, other 1,123 (2017)
country comparison to the world: 12
Ports and terminals:
major seaport(s): Busan, Incheon, Gunsan, Kwangyang, Mokpo, Pohang, Ulsan, Yeosu
container port(s) (TEUs): Busan (19,469,000), Kwangyang (2,327,000), Incheon (2,368,000) (2015)
LNG terminal(s) (import): Incheon, Kwangyang, Pyeongtaek, Samcheok, Tongyeong, Yeosu

Military & Security

Military expenditures:
2.7% of GDP (2017)
2.3% of GDP (2016)
2.3% of GDP (2015)
2.64% of GDP (2014)
2.63% of GDP (2013)
country comparison to the world: 41
Military branches:
Republic of Korea Army, Navy (includes Marine Corps), Air Force (2011)
Military service age and obligation:
18-35 years of age for compulsory military service, with middle school education required; minimum conscript service obligation - 21 months (Army, Marines), 23 months (Navy), 24 months (Air Force); 18-26 years of age for voluntary military service; women, in service since 1950, admitted to 7 service branches, including infantry, but excluded from artillery, armor, anti-air, and chaplaincy corps; HIV-positive individuals are exempt from military service (2017)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international:
Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km-wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic incidents with North Korea in the Yellow Sea over the Northern Limit Line, which South Korea claims as a maritime boundary; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
stateless persons: 197 (2016)

Economic Indicators for South Korea including actual values, historical data, and latest data updates for the South Korea economy.