Geography of South Korea

Map of South Korea

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South Korea is a country that is located in eastern Asia on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is officially called the Republic of Korea and its capital and largest city is Seoul. Most recently, South Korea has been in the news due to growing conflicts between it and its northern neighbor, North Korea. The two went to war in the 1950s and there have been years of hostilities between the two nations but on November 23, 2010, North Korea attacked South Korea.

  • Population: 48,636,068 (July 2010 estimate)'
  • Capital: Seoul
  • Bordering Country: North Korea
  • Land Area: 38,502 square miles (99,720 sq km)
  • Coastline: 1,499 miles (2,413 km)
  • Highest Point: Halla-san at 6,398 feet (1,950 m)

History of South Korea

South Korea has a long history that dates back to ancient times. There is a myth that it was founded in 2333 B.C.E by the god-king Tangun. Since its founding, however, the area of present-day South Korea was invaded several times by neighboring areas and thus, its early history was dominated by China and Japan. In 1910, after weakening Chinese power over the area, Japan began colonial rule over Korea which lasted 35 years.

At the end of World War II in 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies which resulted in the end of the country's control over Korea. At that time, Korea was divided into North and South Korea at the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union and the United States began to influence the areas. On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was officially founded and on September 9, 1948, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) was established.

Two years later on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and began the Korean War. Shortly after its beginning, a coalition led by the U.S. and the United Nations worked to end the war and armistice negotiations began in 1951. In that same year, the Chinese entered the conflict in support of North Korea. Peace negotiations ended on July 27, 1953, at Panmunjom and formed the Demilitarized Zone. According to the U.S. Department of State, an Armistice Agreement was then signed by the Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers and the United Nations Command which was led by the U.S. South Korea never signed the agreement and to this day a peace treaty between North and South Korea has never officially been signed.

Since the Korean War, South Korea experienced a period of domestic instability which resulted in a change it is government leadership. In the 1970s, Major General Park Chung-hee took control after a military coup and during his time in power, the country experienced economic growth and development but there were few political freedoms. In 1979, Park was assassinated and domestic instability continued through the 1980s.

In 1987, Roh Tae-woo became president and he was in office until 1992, at which time Kim Young-sam took power. Since the early 1990s, the country became more stable politically and has grown socially and economically.

Government of South Korea

Today South Korea's government is considered a republic with an executive branch consisting of a chief of state and a head of government. These positions are filled by the president and prime minister, respectively. South Korea also has a unicameral National Assembly and a judicial branch with a Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. The country is divided into nine provinces and seven metropolitan or special cities (i.e. cities controlled directly by the federal government) for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in South Korea

Recently, South Korea's economy has begun to boom considerably and it is currently considered a high-tech industrialized economy. Its capital, Seoul, is a megacity and it is home to some of the world's largest international companies like Samsung and Hyundai. Seoul alone generates over 20% of South Korea's gross domestic product. The largest industries in South Korea are electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, and steel production. Agriculture also plays a role in the country's economy and the chief agricultural products are rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, and fish.

Geography and Climate of South Korea

Geographically, South Korea is located on the southern part of the Korean Peninsula below the 38th parallel of latitude. It has coastlines along the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. South Korea's topography consists mainly of hills and mountains but there are large coastal plains in the western and southern parts of the country. The highest point in South Korea is Halla-san, an extinct volcano, which rises to 6,398 feet (1,950 m). It is located on South Korea's Jeju Island, which is located south of the mainland.

The climate of South Korea is considered temperate and rainfall is heavier in the summer than in the winter due to the presence of the East Asian Monsoon. Winters are cold to very cold depending upon altitude and summers are hot and humid.


  • Central Intelligence Agency. (24 November 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - South Korea.
  • (n.d.). Korea, South: History, Geography, Government, and Culture.
  • United States Department of State. (28 May 2010). South Korea.
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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of South Korea." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). Geography of South Korea. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of South Korea." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).