South Korea has developed into one of Asia’s most affluent countries since partition in 1948. The Communist North has slipped into totalitarianism and poverty.
The republic was proclaimed in 1948 and received UN-backed support from the US after it was invaded by the North two years later.
The Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace agreement, leaving South Korea technically at war for more than fifty years.
The following four decades were marked by authoritarian rule, during which government-sponsored schemes encouraged the growth of family-owned industrial conglomerates, including the Hyundai and Samsung groups.
They helped transform South Korea into one of the world’s major economies and a leading exporter of cars and electronic goods.
The US has tens of thousands of soldiers in the country.
- Republic of South Korea
- Capital: Seoul
- Population 48.6 million
- Area 99,313 sq km (38,345 sq miles)
- Major language Korean
- Major religion Buddhism, Christianity
- Life expectancy 77 years (men), 84 years (women)
- Currency Won