Fast Facts on Korea

This page is all about the basic facts of Korea. And it’s definitely a fact that most people outside of Asia don’t know much about Korea except that it’s a little too close to one of those little ‘axis of evils’. But maybe not knowing anything about this beautiful country is part of is appeal.

south korea facts about living and working in korea

You’ll get to learn about what used to be considered the Hermit Kingdom from their kind people, their scenic landscape, their eager children…rather than a textbook. But it sure doesn’t hurt to know a little about your new home before you arrive and this page will give you a quick run down of the key facts of a country so many foreigners (over 20,000 English teachers alone!) call home.

Here’s the run down:

Population: 48,294,000
Capital: Seoul; 9,592,000
Area: 99,250 square kilometers (38,321 square miles)
Language: Korean, English (widely taught)
Religion: Christian, Buddhist
Currency: South Korean won
Life Expectancy: 76
GDP per Capita: U.S. $19,600
Literacy Percent: 98

History of Korea:

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 14 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.

In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South’s President KIM Dae-jung and the North’s leader Kim Jong Il. In October 2007, a second North-South summit took place between the South’s President Roh Moo-hyun and the North Korean leader.

Harsh rhetoric and unwillingness by North Korea to engage with President Lee Myung-bak following his February 2008 inauguration has presently strained inter-Korean relations.


Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan (Please NEVER. EVER. EVER. call it the Sea of Japan around a Korean. It is the East Sea, to all Koreans) and the Yellow Sea

Area (comparatively): Slightly larger than the U.S. state of Indiana

Climate:Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter

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

Natural hazards: Occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest

Environmental Issues: Air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing

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


Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%)
Buddhist 23.2%
None 49.3%
Other or Unknown 1.3%
(1995 census)

Government type: Republic

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