- Full Name: The Republic of Korea
- Population: 48.6 million (UN, 2012)
- Capital: Seoul
- Area: 99,313 sq km (38,345 sq miles)
- Major Language: Korean
- Major Religions: Buddhism, Christianity, nearly half of adults profess no religion
- Monetary unit: won
- Main exports: electronic products, machinery and transport equipment
- GNI per capita: US $20,870 (World Bank 2011)
South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, and commonly referred to as Korea, is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo, a dynasty which ruled in the Middle Ages. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with China to the west and Japan to the east. South Korea lies in the north temperate zone with a predominantly mountainous terrain. Roughly half of the country's 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.
Korea was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period and its civilization begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC. After the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in 668, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under dynasties lasting for centuries in which its trade, culture, literature, science and technology flourished. It became part of the Japanese Empire in 1910 and after its defeat in 1945, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in 1948. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government of Korea, a communist regime was soon set up in the North that invaded the South in 1950, leading to the Korean War that ended de facto in 1953, with peace and prosperity settling-in thereafter.
Between 1962 and 1994, South Korea's tiger economy grew at an average of 10% annually, fueled by annual export growth of 20%, in a period called the Miracle on the Han River that rapidly transformed it into a high-income advanced economy and the world's 11th largest economy by 1995. Today, South Korea is the seventh largest country in international trade, a regional power with the world's 10th largest defense budget and founding member of the G-20 and APEC. Civilian government replaced military rule in 1987 and it has since evolved into a vibrant democracy ranked second in Asia on the Democracy Index. In 2009, South Korea became the world's first former aid recipient to join the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, becoming a major donor. Its pop culture has considerable influence in Asia and expanding globally in a process called the Korean Wave.
South Korea is a developed country ranked 15th in the Human Development Index, the highest in East Asia. In terms of average wage, it has Asia's highest income and the world's 10th highest income. It ranks highly in education, quality of healthcare, rule of law, ease of doing business, government transparency, job security, tolerance and inclusion. 64% of 25-34 year old Koreans hold a tertiary education degree, the highest in the OECD. The most innovative country as measured by the Bloomberg Innovation Quotient, South Korea is the world's seventh largest exporter, driven by high-tech multinationals such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia and LG. South Korea has global leadership in advanced technology such as the world's fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in the ICT Development Index, e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in smartphone penetration.