For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 98,480 sq. km. (38,023 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Indiana.
Cities (2009): Capital--Seoul (10.5 million). Other major cities--Busan (3.6 million), Daegu (2.5 million), Incheon (2.7 million), Gwangju (1.4 million), Daejeon (1.4 million), Ulsan (1.1 million).
Terrain: Partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys; cultivated plains along the coasts, particularly in the west and south.
Climate: Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Korean(s).
Population (July 2011 est.): 48,754,657.
Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 0.23%.
Ethnic groups: Korean; small Chinese minority (about 20,000).
Religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism, Chondogyo.
Language: Korean; English widely taught in junior high and high school.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Enrollment--11.5 million. Attendance--middle school 99%, high school 95%. Literacy--98%.
Health (2010): Infant mortality rate--4.24/1,000. Life expectancy--78.81 years (men 75.56 years; women 82.28 years).
Total labor force (2010): 24.62 million.
Labor force by occupation (2010): Services--68.4%; industry--24.3%; agriculture--7.3%.
Type: Republic with powers shared between the president, the legislature, and the courts.
Liberation: August 15, 1945.
Constitution: July 17, 1948; last revised 1987.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state); Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court and appellate courts; Constitutional Court.
Subdivisions: Nine provinces, seven administratively separate cities (Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan).
Political parties: Grand National Party (GNP); Democratic Party (DP), formerly known as United Democratic Party (UDP); Liberty Forward Party (LFP); New Progressive Party (NPP); Pro-Park Alliance (PPA); Renewal Korea Party (RKP).
Suffrage: Universal at 19.
Government budget (2010 est.): Expenditures--$267.3 billion.
Defense (2008): 2.5% of GDP.
GDP (purchasing power parity in 2010): $1.459 trillion.
Real GDP growth rate: (2007) 5.1%; (2008) 2.3%; (2009) 0.2%; (2010) 6.1%.
GDP per capita (2009, current U.S. $): $17,074.
Unemployment rate (2010): 3.3%.
Inflation rate (consumer prices): (2008) 4.7%; (2009) 2.8%.
Natural resources: Coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential.
Agriculture: Products--rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit, cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs, fish. Arable land--16.58% of land area.
Industry: Electronics, telecommunications, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel.
Trade (2009): Exports--$363.5 billion: semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, petrochemicals. Imports--$323.1 billion: crude oil, food, electronics and electronic equipment, machinery, transportation equipment, steel, organic chemicals, plastics, base metals and articles. Major export markets (2009)--China (23.2%), U.S. (10.1%), Japan (5.8%), Hong Kong (5.3%), Singapore (3.6%). Major importers to South Korea (2009)--China (16.8%), Japan (15.3%), U.S. (9.0%), Saudi Arabia (6.1%), Australia (4.6%).
Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world. Except for a small Chinese community (about 20,000), virtually all Koreans share a common cultural and linguistic heritage. With 48.7 million people inhabiting an area roughly the size of Indiana, South Korea has one of the world's highest population densities. Major population centers are located in the northwest, southeast, and in the plains south of the Seoul-Incheon area.
Korea has experienced one of the largest rates of emigration, with ethnic Koreans residing primarily in China (2.4 million), the United States (2.1 million), Japan (600,000), and the countries of the former Soviet Union (532,000).
The Korean language is related to Japanese and Mongolian. Although it differs grammatically from Chinese and does not use tones, a large number of Chinese cognates exist in Korean. Chinese ideograms are believed to have been brought into Korea sometime before the second century BC. The learned class spoke Korean, but read and wrote Chinese. A phonetic writing system ("hangul") was invented in the 15th century by King Sejong to provide a writing system for commoners who could not read classical Chinese. Modern Korean uses hangul almost exclusively with Chinese characters in limited use for word clarification. Approximately 1,300 Chinese characters are used in modern Korean. English is taught as a second language in most primary and secondary schools. Chinese and Japanese are also widely taught at secondary schools.
Freedom of religion is protected under South Korea’s constitution. Roughly half of the South Korean population actively practice some form of religion. Most religious believers in South Korea follow Christianity (29.2% of the population) and Buddhism (22.8%). Although only 0.2% of South Koreans identify themselves as Confucianists, Korean society remains highly imbued with Confucian values and beliefs. A small minority of South Koreans practice Islam, Shamanism (traditional spirit worship), and Chondogyo ("Heavenly Way"); 46.5% of South Koreans practice no religion.
The myth of Korea's foundation by the god-king Tangun in BC 2333 embodies the homogeneity and self-sufficiency valued by the Korean people. Korea experienced many invasions by its larger neighbors in its 2,000 years of recorded history. The country repelled numerous foreign invasions despite domestic strife, in part due to its protected status in the Sino-centric regional political model during Korea's Chosun dynasty (1392-1910). Historical antipathies to foreign influence earned Korea the title of "Hermit Kingdom" in the 19th century.
With declining Chinese power and a weakened domestic posture at the end of the 19th century, Korea was open to Western and Japanese encroachment. In 1910, Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule over Korea. As a result of Japan's efforts to supplant the Korean language and aspects of Korean culture, memories of Japanese annexation still recall fierce animosity and resentment, especially among older Koreans. Nevertheless, import restrictions on Japanese movies, popular music, fashion, and the like have been lifted, and many Koreans, especially the younger generations, eagerly follow Japanese pop culture. Aspects of Korean culture, including television shows and movies, have also become popular in Japan.
Japan's surrender to the Allied Powers in 1945, signaling the end of World War II, only further embroiled Korea in foreign rivalries. Division at the 38th parallel marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. trusteeship over the North and South, respectively. On August 15, 1948 the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) was established, with Syngman Rhee as the first President. On September 9, 1948 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) was established under Kim Il Sung.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. Led by the U.S., a 16-member coalition undertook the first collective action under United Nations Command (UNC). Following China's entry on behalf of North Korea later that year, a stalemate ensued for the final 2 years of the conflict. Armistice negotiations, initiated in July 1951, were ultimately concluded on July 27, 1953 at Panmunjom, in what is now the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Armistice Agreement was signed by representatives of the Korean People's Army, the Chinese People's Volunteers, and the U.S.-led UNC. Though the R.O.K. supported the UNC, it refused to sign the Armistice Agreement. A peace treaty has never been signed. The war left almost three million Koreans dead or wounded and millions of others homeless and separated from their families.
In the following decades, South Korea experienced political turmoil under autocratic leadership. President Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in April 1960 following a student-led uprising. The Second Republic under the leadership of Chang Myon ended after only 1 year, when Major General Park Chung-hee led a military coup. Park's rule, which resulted in tremendous economic growth and development but increasingly restricted political freedoms, ended with his assassination in 1979. Subsequently, a powerful group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo-hwan, declared martial law and took power.
Throughout the Park and Chun eras, South Korea developed a vocal civil society that led to strong protests against authoritarian rule. Composed primarily of students and labor union activists, protest movements reached a climax after Chun's 1979 coup and declaration of martial law. A confrontation in Gwangju in 1980 left at least 200 civilians dead. Thereafter, pro-democracy activities intensified even more, ultimately forcing political concessions by the government in 1987, including the restoration of direct presidential elections.
In 1987, Roh Tae-woo, a former general, was elected president, but additional democratic advances during his tenure resulted in the 1992 election of a long-time pro-democracy activist, Kim Young-sam. Kim became Korea's first civilian elected president in 32 years. The 1997 presidential election and peaceful transition of power marked another step forward in Korea's democratization when Kim Dae-jung, a life-long democracy and human rights activist, was elected from a major opposition party. The transition to an open, democratic system was further consolidated in 2002, when self-educated human rights lawyer, Roh Moo-hyun, won the presidential election on a "participatory government" platform. In December 2007, South Koreans elected Lee Myung-bak, a former business executive and Mayor of Seoul, as president.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Republic of Korea (commonly known as "South Korea") is a republic with powers nominally shared among the presidency, the legislature, and the judiciary, but traditionally dominated by the president. The president is chief of state and is elected for a single term of 5 years. The 299 members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to 4-year terms; elections for the assembly were held on April 9, 2008. South Korea's judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. The judiciary is independent under the constitution. The country has nine provinces and seven administratively separate cities--the capital of Seoul, along with Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon and Ulsan. Political parties include the Grand National Party (GNP), Democratic Party (DP), Liberty Forward Party (LFP), New Progressive Party (NPP), Pro-Park Alliance (PPA), and Renewal Korea Party (RKP). Suffrage is universal at age 19 (lowered from 20 in 2005).
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Kim Hwang-sik
Minister of Strategy and Finance--Bahk Jae-Wan
Minister of Education, Science and Technology--Lee Ju-hoo
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade--Kim Sung-hwan
Minister of Unification--Hyun In-taek
Minister of Justice--Lee Kwi-nam
Minister of National Defense--Kim Kwan-jin
Minister of Public Administration and Security--Maeng Hyung-Kyu
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism--Choung Byoung-gug
Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries--Suh Kyu-Yong
Minister of Knowledge Economy--Choi Joong-kyung
Minister of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs--Chin Soo-hee
Minister of Environment--Yoo Young-sook
Minister of Labor--Lee Chae-pil
Minister of Gender Equality--Paik Hee-young
Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs--Kwan Do-youp
Director of the National Intelligence Service--Won Sei-hoon
Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security--Chun Yung-woo
Chairman of Financial Services Commission--Kim Seok-dong
Ambassador to the U.S.--Han Duk-soo
Ambassador to the UN--Park In-kook
Korea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-5600). Consulates General are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Hagatna (Agana) in Guam. Korea also has a mission to the United Nations.
Over the past several decades, the Republic of Korea has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth, which has allowed the country to rise from the rubble of the Korean War into the ranks of the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD). Today, South Korea is the United States' seventh-largest trading partner and is the 15th-largest economy in the world.
In the early 1960s, the government of Park Chung Hee instituted sweeping economic policy changes emphasizing exports and labor-intensive light industries, leading to rapid debt-financed industrial expansion. The government carried out a currency reform, strengthened financial institutions, and introduced flexible economic planning. In the 1970s Korea began directing fiscal and financial policies toward promoting heavy and chemical industries, consumer electronics, and automobiles. Manufacturing continued to grow rapidly in the 1980s and early 1990s.
In recent years, Korea's economy moved away from the centrally planned, government-directed investment model toward a more market-oriented one. South Korea bounced back from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis with assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but its recovery was based largely on extensive financial reforms that restored stability to markets. These economic reforms, pushed by President Kim Dae-jung, helped Korea return to growth, with growth rates of 10% in 1999 and 9% in 2000. The slowing global economy and falling exports slowed growth to 3.3% in 2001, prompting consumer stimulus measures that led to 7.0% growth in 2002. Consumer overspending and rising household debt, along with external factors, slowed growth to near 3% again in 2003. Economic performance in 2004 improved to 4.6% due to an increase in exports, and remained at or above 4% in 2005, 2006, and 2007. With the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in the third quarter of 2008, annual GDP growth slowed to 2.3% in 2008 and just 0.2% in 2009.
Economists are concerned that South Korea's economic growth potential has fallen because of a rapidly aging population and structural problems that are becoming increasingly apparent. Foremost among these structural concerns are the rigidity of South Korea's labor regulations, the need for more constructive relations between management and workers, the country's underdeveloped financial markets, and a general lack of regulatory transparency. Korean policy makers are increasingly worried about diversion of corporate investment to China and other lower wage countries, and by Korea's falling foreign direct investment (FDI). President Lee Myung-bak was elected in December 2007 on a platform that promised to boost Korea's economic growth rate through deregulation, tax reform, increased FDI, labor reform, and free trade agreements (FTAs) with major markets. President Lee’s economic agenda necessarily shifted in the final months of 2008 to dealing with the global economic crisis. In 2009, the economy responded well to a robust fiscal stimulus package and low interest rates.
North-South Economic Ties
Two-way trade between North and South Korea, which was first legalized in 1988, rose to almost $1.82 billion in 2008 before declining sharply thereafter. Until recently, South Korea was North Korea's second-largest trading partner after China. Much of this trade was related to out-processing or assembly work undertaken by South Korean firms in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Much of the work done in North Korea has been funded by South Korea, but this assistance was halted in 2008 except for energy aid (heavy fuel oil) authorized under the Six-Party Talks. Many of these economic ties became important symbols of hope for the eventual reunification of the peninsula. For example, after the June 2000 North-South summit, the two Koreas reconnected their east and west coast railroads and roads where they cross the DMZ and improved these transportation routes. South Korean tour groups used the east coast road to travel from South Korea to Mt. Geumgang in North Korea beginning in 2003, although the R.O.K. suspended tours to Mt. Geumgang in July 2008 following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a D.P.R.K. soldier. Unfortunately, North-South economic ties were seriously damaged by escalating tensions following North Korea’s torpedoing of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010. In September 2010, South Korea suspended all inter-Korean trade with the exception of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. As of mid-November 2010, economic ties had not seen signs of revival.
South Korea joined the United Nations in August 1991 along with North Korea and is active in most UN specialized agencies and many international forums. South Korea has hosted major international events such as the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup Soccer Tournament (co-hosted with Japan), and the 2002 Second Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies. In 2010, the country hosted the R.O.K.-Japan-China Trilateral Summit as well as the G-20 Seoul Summit. It will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Economic considerations have a high priority in Korean foreign policy. The R.O.K. seeks to build on its economic accomplishments to increase its regional and global role. It is a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and chaired the organization in 2005.
The Republic of Korea maintains diplomatic relations with more than 170 countries and a broad network of trading relationships. The United States and Korea are allied by the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty. Korea and Japan coordinate closely on numerous issues. This includes consultations with the United States on North Korea policy.
Korean Peninsula: Reunification Efforts
For almost 20 years after the 1950-53 Korean War, relations between North and South Korea were minimal and very strained. Official contact did not occur until 1971, beginning with Red Cross contacts and family reunification projects. In the early 1990s, relations between the two countries improved with the 1991 “Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North,” since known as the “Basic Agreement,” which acknowledged that reunification was the goal of both governments, and the 1992 “Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” However, divergent positions on the process of reunification and North Korean weapons programs, compounded by South Korea's tumultuous domestic politics and the 1994 death of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, contributed to a cycle of warming and cooling of relations.
Relations improved again following the 1997 election of Kim Dae-jung. His "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with the D.P.R.K. set the stage for the historic June 2000 inter-Korean summit between President Kim and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. President Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for the policy, but the prize was somewhat tarnished by revelations of a $500 million dollar "payoff" to North Korea that immediately preceded the summit. Engagement continued during Roh Moo-hyun’s presidency, but declined following the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak in February 2008.
Korean Peninsula: Nuclear Tensions and Recent Developments
Relations worsened following North Korea’s acknowledgement in October 2002 of a covert program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Following this acknowledgement, the United States, along with the People's Republic of China, proposed multilateral talks among the concerned parties to deal with this issue. At the urging of China and its neighbors, the D.P.R.K. agreed to meet with China and the United States in April 2003. In August of that year, the D.P.R.K. agreed to attend Six-Party Talks aimed at ending the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons that added the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Russia to the table. Two more rounds of Six-Party Talks between the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, and the D.P.R.K. were held in February and June of 2004. At the third round, the United States put forward a comprehensive proposal aimed at completely, verifiably, and irreversibly eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. A fourth round of talks was held in two sessions between July and September 2005.
A breakthrough for the Six-Party Talks came with the Joint Statement of Principles on September 19, 2005, in which, among other things, the D.P.R.K. committed to "abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards." The Joint Statement also committed the United States and other parties to certain actions as the D.P.R.K. denuclearized. In addition, the United States offered security assurances to North Korea, specifying that it had no nuclear weapons on R.O.K. territory and no intention to attack or invade the D.P.R.K. with nuclear or other weapons. Finally, the United States and the D.P.R.K., as well as the D.P.R.K. and Japan, agreed to undertake steps to normalize relations, subject to their respective bilateral policies.
However, following D.P.R.K. protests against U.S. Government money-laundering sanctions on D.P.R.K. funds held at Macao’s Banco Delta Asia, the D.P.R.K. boycotted the Six-Party Talks during late 2005 and most of 2006. On October 9, 2006, North Korea announced a successful nuclear test, verified by the United States on October 11. In response, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), citing Chapter VII of the UN Charter, unanimously adopted Resolution 1718, condemning North Korea's action and imposing sanctions on certain luxury goods and trade of military items, weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related parts, and technology transfers.
The Six-Party Talks resumed in December 2006. Following a bilateral meeting between the United States and D.P.R.K. in Berlin in January 2007, yet another round of Six-Party Talks was held in February 2007. On February 13, 2007, the parties reached an agreement on "Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement" in which North Korea agreed to shut down and seal its Yongbyon nuclear facility, including the reprocessing facility, and to invite back International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verification of these actions. The other five parties agreed to provide emergency energy assistance to North Korea in the amount of 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the initial phase (within 60 days) and the equivalent of up to 950,000 tons of HFO in the next phase of North Korea's denuclearization. The six parties also established five working groups to form specific plans for implementing the Joint Statement in the following areas: denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, normalization of D.P.R.K.-U.S. relations, normalization of D.P.R.K.-Japan relations, economic and energy cooperation, and a Northeast Asia peace and security mechanism. All parties agreed that the working groups would meet within 30 days of the agreement, which they did. The agreement also envisioned the directly-related parties negotiating a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum. As part of the initial actions, North Korea invited then-IAEA Director General ElBaradei to Pyongyang in early March for preliminary discussions on the return of the IAEA to the D.P.R.K. A sixth round of Six-Party Talks took place on March 19-23, 2007, in which the parties reported on the first meetings of the five working groups.
At the invitation of the D.P.R.K., Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill visited Pyongyang in June 2007 as part of ongoing consultations with the six parties on implementation of the Initial Actions agreement. After the Banco Delta Asia funds were released in July 2007, the D.P.R.K. shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility as well as an uncompleted reactor at Taechon, and IAEA personnel returned to the D.P.R.K. to monitor and verify the shut-down and to seal the facility. Concurrently, the R.O.K., China, United States, and Russia initiated deliveries of HFO and other energy-related assistance per the agreement. These four parties continued to provide shipments of HFO and other energy assistance as the D.P.R.K. implemented disablement steps during 2007 and 2008. All five working groups met in August and September 2007 to discuss detailed plans for implementation of the next phase of the Initial Actions agreement, and the D.P.R.K. invited a team of experts from the United States, China, and Russia to visit the Yongbyon nuclear facility in September 2007 to discuss specific steps that could be taken to disable the facility. The subsequent September 27-30 Six-Party plenary meeting resulted in the October 3, 2007 agreement on "Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement."
Under the terms of the October 3 agreement, the D.P.R.K. agreed to disable all existing nuclear facilities subject to abandonment under the September 2005 Joint Statement and the February 2007 agreement. The parties agreed to complete by December 31, 2007 a set of disablement actions for the three core facilities at Yongbyon: the 5-MW(e) Experimental Reactor, the Radiochemical Laboratory (Reprocessing Plant), and the Fresh Fuel Fabrication Plant. The D.P.R.K. also agreed to provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs in accordance with the February 2007 agreement by December 31, 2007 and reaffirmed its commitment not to transfer nuclear materials, technology, or know-how.
In November 2007, the D.P.R.K. began to disable the three core facilities at Yongbyon and completed many of the agreed disablement actions by the end of the year. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill visited Pyongyang again in December 2007 as part of ongoing consultations on the implementation of Second-Phase actions and carried with him a letter from President George W. Bush to Kim Jong-il. While the D.P.R.K. missed the December 31 deadline to provide a complete and correct declaration, it belatedly delivered its declaration to the Chinese on June 26, 2008. The D.P.R.K. also imploded the cooling tower at the Yongbyon facility in late June 2008 in the presence of international media and U.S. Government officials. Following the D.P.R.K.'s progress on disablement and provision of a declaration, President Bush announced the lifting of the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) with respect to the D.P.R.K. and notified Congress of his administration's intent to rescind North Korea's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, a step which the Secretary of State followed through on in October 2008. However, efforts to move forward on verification steps soon met with D.P.R.K. resistance.
In April 2009, the D.P.R.K. launched a missile over the Sea of Japan, in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1718. The UNSC issued a statement condemning the launch and demanding that the D.P.R.K. refrain from further launches. The D.P.R.K. responded by withdrawing its active participation from the Six-Party Talks and demanding the expulsion of IAEA inspectors and U.S. technical experts who had been monitoring the Yongbyon nuclear site. From May to November 2009, the D.P.R.K. announced a number of nuclear tests and short-range ballistic missile launches, announcing in September 2009 that “experimental uranium enrichment has been successfully conducted to enter into completion phase.” In June 2009, the UNSC adopted Resolution 1874, which expanded UNSCR 1718 to include a ban on arms transfers to and from the D.P.R.K., to call on states to inspect vessels in their territory when there are “reasonable grounds” that banned cargo is on a ship. The United States appointed Ambassador Philip Goldberg as the U.S. Coordinator for Implementation of UNSCR 1874. In June, July, and August 2009, Ambassador Goldberg led delegations to China, the R.O.K., Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Russia, the U.A.E., and Egypt to encourage these states to implement sanctions in a way that would shed light on North Korean proliferation-related activities.
In December 2009, Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth led an interagency delegation to Pyongyang for extensive talks that focused on the way to achieve verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The United States and North Korea agreed on the importance of the Six-Party Talks and the need to implement the 2005 Joint Statement, but did not agree on when and how the D.P.R.K. would return to denuclearization talks. As of November 2010, the Six-Party Talks had not resumed. Prospects for talks dimmed following the D.P.R.K.’s sinking of the R.O.K. warship Cheonan on March 26, 2010, which killed 46 R.O.K. sailors. In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence that the warship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine, the D.P.R.K. has continued to deny responsibility for the attack. On November 23, North Korea hit Yeonpyeong Island with artillery, killing two civilians and wounding 13. This incident has increased complications and tensions between the North and South.
Peaceful resolution of the issues on the Korean Peninsula will only be possible if North Korea fundamentally changes its behavior. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on North Korea to take concrete, irreversible denuclearization steps toward fulfillment of the 2005 Joint Statement, comply with international law including UNSCRs 1718 and 1874, cease provocative behaviors, and take steps to improve relations with its neighbors.
The United States believes that the question of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is, first and foremost, a matter for the Korean people to decide.
Under the 1953 U.S.-R.O.K. Mutual Defense Treaty, the United States agreed to help the Republic of Korea defend itself against external aggression. In support of this commitment, the United States has maintained military personnel in Korea, including the Army's Second Infantry Division and several Air Force tactical squadrons. To coordinate operations between these units and the over 680,000-strong Korean armed forces, a Combined Forces Command (CFC) was established in 1978. The head of the CFC also serves as Commander of the United Nations Command (UNC) and U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). The current CFC commander is General Walter “Skip” Sharp.
Several aspects of the U.S.-R.O.K. security relationship are changing as the U.S. moves from a leading to a supporting role. In 2004 an agreement was reached on the return of the Yongsan base in Seoul--as well as a number of other U.S. bases--to the R.O.K. and the eventual relocation of all U.S. forces to south of the Han River. Those movements are expected to be completed by 2016. In addition, the U.S. and R.O.K. agreed to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Korea to 25,000 by 2008, but a subsequent agreement by the U.S. and R.O.K. presidents in 2008 has now capped that number at 28,500, with no further troop reductions planned. The U.S. and R.O.K. have also agreed to transfer wartime operational control to the R.O.K. military on December 1, 2015.
As Korea's economy has developed, trade and investment ties have become an increasingly important aspect of the U.S.-R.O.K. relationship. Korea is the United States' seventh-largest trading partner (ranking ahead of larger economies such as France, Italy, and India), and there are significant flows of manufactured goods, agricultural products, services and technology between the two countries. Major American firms have long been major investors in Korea, while Korea's leading firms have begun to make significant investments in the United States. The implementation of structural reforms contained in the IMF's 1998 program for Korea improved access to the Korean market and improved trade relations between the United States and Korea. Building on that improvement, the United States and Korea launched negotiations on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) on February 2, 2006. On June 30, 2007, the United States and Korea signed a comprehensive FTA that would eliminate virtually all barriers to trade and investment between the two countries. Tariffs on 95% of trade between the two countries were to be eliminated within 3 years of implementation, with virtually all the remaining tariffs to be removed within 10 years of implementation; the FTA's chapters addressed non-tariff measures in investment, intellectual property, services, competition policy, and other areas. In December 2010, President Barack Obama announced the successful resolution of outstanding issues in the agreement, which would eliminate tariffs on over 95% of industrial and consumer goods within 5 years; the agreement is currently awaiting ratification. The KORUS FTA is the largest free trade agreement Korea has ever signed, the largest free trade agreement for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992, and the United States’ first FTA with a major Asian economy. Economists have projected that the FTA will generate billions of dollars in increased trade and investment between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and boost economic growth and job creation in both countries.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Sung Kim (from November 2011)
Deputy Chief of Mission--Mark Tokola
Counselor for Political Affairs--James Wayman
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Gregory Burton
Counselor for Management Affairs--Mary Martinez
Counselor for Public Affairs--Patrick Linehan
Consul General--Cynthia Sharpe
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--James Sullivan
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--Kathryn Ting
Chief, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Korea (JUSMAG-K)--Col. Ha Dong Chin
Defense Attache--Col. Kevin Madden
Drug Enforcement Administration, Special Agent in Charge--Edward Fiocchi
Open Source Center, Seoul Bureau Chief--Kristen Patel
DHS-Citizenship and Immigration Services--Kenneth Sherman
DHS-Immigration and Customs Enforcement Attache--Jeffrey Deal
The U.S. Embassy in South Korea is located at 32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710. The contact information for the U.S. Embassy is: American Embassy-Seoul, Unit 15550, APO AP 96205-5550 (tel.: 82-2-397-4114; fax: 82-2-738-8845). The U.S. Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) is located at 146-1, Susong-dong, Jongno-gu, Leema Bldg., Rm. 303, Seoul 110-140 (fax: 82-2-720-7921). The U.S. Export Development Office/U.S. Trade Center can be reached c/o U.S. Embassy (fax: 82-2-739-1628).
The following general country guides are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402:
Library of Congress. North Korea: A Country Study. 1994.
Library of Congress. South Korea: A Country Study. 1992.
Department of State. The Record on Korean Unification 1943-1960. 1961.
Department of the Army. Communist North Korea: A Bibliographic Survey. 1971.
Internet Resources on North and South Korea
The following sites are provided to give an indication of Internet sites on Korea. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications, including Internet sites.
Korea Society--http://www.koreasociety.org/; links to academic and other sites.
Nautilus Institute--http://www.nautilus.org/; produced by the Nautilus Institute in California, and includes press roundup Monday through Friday.
Joongang Daily--http://joongangdaily.joins.com/; South Korean English-language newspaper.
Korea Herald--http://www.koreaherald.com/; South Korean English-language newspaper.
Korea Times--http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/; South Korean English-language newspaper.
(North) Korean Central News Agency--http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm