U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Korea, November 1997
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Korea


Area: 98,500 sq. km. (38,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Indiana. 
Cities: Capital-Seoul: 10.9 million. Other major cities: Pusan-3.8 
million; Taegu-2.2 million; Inchon-2.1 million; Kwanju-2 million; 
Taejon-2 million.
Terrain: Partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow 
valleys; cultivated plains along the coasts, particularly in the west 
and south. 
Climate: Temperate


Nationality: Noun and adjective-Korean(s). 
Population (1995): 45.5 million. Annual growth rate (1994): 1.04%. 
Ethnic groups: Korean; small Chinese minority. 
Religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism, Chondogyo. 
Language: Korean. 
Education: Years compulsory-9. Enrollment-11.5 million. Attendance-
middle school 99%, high school 95%. Literacy-96%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate-22/1,000. Life expectancy men 68 yrs., 
women 75 yrs. 
Work force : 21.5 million. Services-61%. Mining and manufacturing-24%. 


Type: Republic with powers shared between the president and the 
Independence: August 15, 1948. Constitution: July 17, 1948; last revised 
Branches: Executive-president (chief of state). Legislative-unicameral 
National Assembly. Judicial-Supreme Court and appellate courts, 
Constitutional Court. 
Subdivisions: 9 provinces, 6 administratively separate cities (Seoul, 
Pusan, Inchon, Taegu, Kwangju, Taejon). 
Political parties: Government party-New Korea Party (NKP). Opposition 
parties-National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), Democratic Party 
(DP), United Liberal Democrats (ULD). 
Suffrage: Universal at 20. 
Central government budget (1995): Expenditures-$65.8 billion. 
Defense (1995): $14 billion, about 3.3% of nominal GDP and 23.3% of 
government budget; 
about 650,000 troops. 


Nominal GDP (1997): $476 billion (est.). 
GDP growth rate (1997): 6.2% (est.). 
Per capita GNP (1997): $10,530. Consumer price index (1997 avg. 
increase): 4.5%. 
Natural resources: Limited coal, tungsten, iron ore, limestone, 
kaolinite, and graphite. 
Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries): Products-rice, 
vegetables, fruit. Arable land-22% of land area.
Mining and manufacturing: Textiles, footwear, electronics and electrical 
equipment, shipbuilding, motor vehicles, petrochemicals, industrial 
Trade: Exports-$140 billion: manufactures, textiles, ships, automobiles, 
steel, computers, footwear. Major markets-U.S., Japan, ASEAN, European 
Union. Imports-$147 billion: crude oil, food, machinery and 
transportation equipment, chemicals and chemical products, base metals 
and articles. Major suppliers-Japan, U.S., European Union, Middle East. 
Exchange rate (Nov. 1997): 964.5 won = U.S.$1 


Korea was first populated by a Tungusic branch of the Ural-Altaic 
family, which migrated to the  peninsula from the northwestern regions 
of Asia. Some also settled parts of northeast China  (Manchuria); 
Koreans and Manchurians still show physical similarities-in their 
height, for example.  Koreans are racially and linguistically 
homogeneous, with no sizable indigenous minorities, except  Chinese 

South Korea's major population centers are in the northwest area of 
Seoul-Inchon and in the  fertile southern plain. The mountainous central 
and eastern areas are sparsely inhabited. The  Japanese colonial 
administration concentrated its industrial development efforts in the  
comparatively underpopulated and resource-rich north, resulting in a 
considerable migration of  people to the north from the southern 
agrarian provinces. This trend was reversed after World  War II as 
Koreans returned to the south from Japan and Manchuria. In addition, 
more than 2  million Koreans moved to the south from the north following 
the division of the peninsula into U.S.  and Soviet military zones of 
administration. This migration continued after the Republic of Korea  
was established in 1948 and during the Korean war (1950-53). About 10% 
of the people in the  Republic of Korea are of northern origin. With 
44.5 million people, South Korea has one of the  world's highest 
population densities-much higher, for example, than India or Japan-while 
the  territorially larger North has only about 22 million people. Ethnic 
Koreans now residing in other  countries live mostly in China (1.9 
million), the United States (1.52 million), Japan (681,000), and  the 
countries of the former Soviet Union (450,000).  


Korean is a Ural-Altaic language. It is related to Japanese and remotely 
related to Hungarian,  Finnish, Estonian, and Mongolian. Although 
dialects exist, the Korean spoken throughout the  peninsula is mutually 
comprehensible. Chinese characters were used to write Korean before the  
Korean Hangul alphabet was invented in the 15th century. These 
characters are still in limited use  in South Korea, but the North uses 
Hangul exclusively. Many older people retain some  knowledge of Japanese 
from the colonial period (1910-45), and many educated Koreans can  read 
English, which is taught in all secondary schools.  


Korea's traditional religions are Buddhism and Shamanism. Buddhism has 
lost some influence  over the years, but is still followed by about 27% 
of the population. Shamanism-traditional spirit  worship-is still 
practiced in some rural areas 

Although Confucianism remains a dominant cultural influence, its 
adherents are few and tend to be  elderly. Some sources place the number 
of adherents of Chondogyo, a native religion founded in  the mid-19th 
century that fuses elements of Confucianism and Christianity, at more 
than 1 million. 

Christian missionaries arrived in Korea as early as the 16th century, 
but it was not until the 19th  century that they founded schools, 
hospitals, and other modern institutions throughout the country.  
Christianity is now one of Korea's largest religions. In 1993, nearly 
10.5 million Koreans, or 24%  of the population, were Christians (about 
76% Protestant)-the largest figure for any East Asian  country except 
the Philippines.  


According to Korean legend, the god-king Tangun founded the Korean 
nation in BC 2333. By  the first century AD, the Korean Peninsula was 
divided into the kingdoms of Silla, Koguryo, and  Paekche. The Silla 
kingdom unified the peninsula in 668 AD. The Koryo dynasty (from which 
the  Western name "Korea" is derived) succeeded the Silla kingdom in 
935. The Choson dynasty,  ruled by members of the Yi clan, supplanted 
Koryo in 1392 and lasted until the Japanese annexed  Korea in 1910 

Throughout most of its history, Korea has been invaded, influenced, and 
fought over by its larger  neighbors. Korea was under Mongolian 
occupation from 1231 until the early 14th century and  was devastated by 
Chinese rebel armies in 1359 and 1361; the Japanese warlord Hideyoshi  
launched major invasions in 1592 and 1597. Korea's closed-door policy, 
adopted to ward off  foreign encroachment, earned it the name of "Hermit 
Kingdom." Although the Choson Dynasty  paid fealty to the Chinese 
throne, Korea was, in fact, independent until the late 19th century. At  
that time Japanese, Chinese, and Russian competition in Northeast Asia 
led to armed conflict and  foreign intervention in Korea's domestic and 
foreign policy. Japan defeated its two competitors  and established 
dominance in Korea, formally annexing it in 1910.  

The Japanese colonial era was characterized by tight control from Tokyo 
and ruthless efforts to  supplant Korean language and culture. Organized 
Korean resistance to such colonialism, notably  the 1919 Independence 
Movement, was unsuccessful and Japan remained firmly in control until  
the end of World War II 

Near the end of the war, the April 1945 Yalta Conference agreed to 
establish a four-power  trusteeship for Korea. The trusteeship was 
intended as a temporary administrative measure  pending democratic 
elections for a Korean government. With the unexpected early surrender 
of  Japan, the United States proposed-and the Soviet Union agreed-that 
Japanese troops surrender  to U.S. forces south of the 38th parallel and 
to Soviet forces north of that line 

At a December 1945 Foreign Ministers' conference in Moscow, it was 
proposed that a  trusteeship be established in Korea. The Moscow 
conference generated a firestorm of protest in  the South. Its most 
critical opponents were rightist Korean leaders associated with the 
provisional  government established in Shanghai in 1919 by Korean 
nationalists living abroad. Most notable  among them was nationalist 
leader Syngman Rhee. 

The U.S. military government initially found itself at odds with the 
local self-governing bodies  established after the Japanese surrender-
the "people's committees."  It relied on the advice of  conservative 
elements but later tried to put together a moderate coalition to provide 
itself with a  broader base of political support. In December 1946, the 
military government established the  Interim Legislative Assembly to 
draft legislation, and appointed moderates to half of the seats. The  
others were indirectly elected seats that went to rightists. But the 
July 1947 assassination of a  prominent leftist in the coalition and the 
decision of a coalition moderate to enter into unification  talks with 
the north led to the demise of the coalition efforts.  

The joint Soviet-American commission provided for by the Moscow 
Conference met  intermittently in Seoul but became deadlocked over the 
issue of free consultations with  representatives of all Korean 
political groups for establishment of a national government. The U.S.  
submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly for resolution 
in September 1947. In  November, the General Assembly ruled that UN-
supervised elections should be held. 

Korean Conflict

The Soviet Union and Korean authorities in the north ignored the UN 
General Assembly  resolution on elections. Nonetheless, elections were 
carried out under UN observation in the  south, and on August 15, 1948, 
the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) was established. Syngman Rhee  became the 
republic's first president. On September 9, 1948, the Democratic 
People's Republic  of Korea (D.P.R.K.) was established in the north 
under Kim Il Sung.  

Guerrilla fighting in the south and clashes between southern and 
northern forces along the 38th  parallel intensified during 1948-50. 
Although it continued to provide modest military aid to the  south, the 
U.S. withdrew its occupation forces, leaving behind a 500-man Military 
Advisory  Group by June 1949.  

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. The UN, in 
accord with its  Charter, engaged in its first collective action by 
establishing the UN Command (UNC), under  which 16 member nations sent 
troops and assistance to South Korea. At the request of the UN  Security 
Council, the United States, contributor of the largest contingent, led 
this international  effort.  

After initially falling back to the southeastern Pusan perimeter, UN 
forces conducted a successful  surprise landing at Inchon and rapidly 
advanced up the peninsula. As the main UN force  approached the northern 
Yalu River, however, large numbers of Chinese "people's volunteers"  
intervened, forcing UN troops to withdraw south of Seoul. The battle 
line seesawed back and  forth until the late spring of 1951, when a 
successful offensive by UN forces was halted to  enhance cease-fire 
negotiation prospects. The battle line thereafter stabilized north of 
Seoul near  the 38th parallel.  

Armistice negotiations began in July 1951, but hostilities continued 
until July 27, 1953. On that  date at Panmunjom, the military commanders 
of the North Korean Army, the Chinese People's  Volunteers, and the UNC 
signed an armistice agreement. Neither the United States nor South  
Korea is a signatory of the armistice per se, though both adhere to it 
through the UNC. No  comprehensive peace agreement has replaced the 1953 
armistice pact; thus, a condition of  belligerency still technically 
exists on the divided peninsula. 

The Military Armistice Commission (MAC) was created in 1953 to oversee 
and enforce the  terms of the armistice. The Neutral Nation Supervisory 
Committee (NNSC)-originally made up  of delegations from Poland and 
Czechoslovakia on the D.P.R.K. side and Sweden and  Switzerland on the 
UN side-monitors the activities of the MAC. In recent years, North Korea 
has  sought to undermine the MAC by various means. In April 1994 it 
declared the MAC void and  withdrew its representatives. Prior to this 
it had forced the Czechs out of the NNSC by refusing  to accept the 
Czech Republic as the successor state of Czechoslovakia, an original 
member of the  NNSC. In September 1994 China recalled the Chinese 
People's Volunteers representatives to  the MAC, and in early 1995 North 
Korea forced Poland to remove its representatives to the  NNSC from the 
North Korean side of the DMZ.  

Postwar Developments

Syngman Rhee served as president of the Republic of Korea until April 
1960, when unrest led by  university students forced him to step down. A 
caretaker government was then established, the  constitution was 
amended, and national elections were held in June. The opposition 
Democratic  Party easily defeated Rhee's Liberal Party, and the new 
National Assembly named Chang Myon  prime minister in August. Chang's 
democratic but ineffectual government-the Second  Republic-lasted until 
May 1961, when it was overthrown in an army coup led by Maj. Gen. Park  
Chung Hee. After two years of military government under Park, civilian 
rule was restored with the  advent of the Third Republic in 1963. Park, 
who had retired from the army, was elected president  and was reelected 
in 1967, 1971, and 1978. 

In 1972 a referendum approved the Yushin (revitalizing) constitution, 
greatly strengthening  presidential and executive branch powers. Key 
provisions included indirect election of the  president, presidential 
appointment of one-third of the National Assembly, and presidential  
authority to issue decrees restricting civil liberties in times of 
national emergency.  

The Park era, marked by rapid industrial modernization and extraordinary 
economic growth,  ended with his assassination in October 1979. Prime 
Minister Choi Kyu Ha assumed office briefly  (the Fourth Republic), 
promising a new constitution and presidential elections. In December 
1979  Maj. Gen. Chun Doo Hwan and close military colleagues staged a 
coup in which they removed  the army chief of staff and soon effectively 
controlled the government.  

University student-led demonstrations against this government spread in 
the spring of 1980. The  government declared martial law in mid-May, 
banned all demonstrations, and arrested many  political leaders and 
dissidents. Special forces units in the city of Kwangju dealt harshly 
with those  who ignored the ban, setting off a confrontation which left 
at least 200 civilians dead. This incident  left a wound that has proven 
slow to heal. By September 1980, President Choi had been forced  to 
resign, and General Chun, by then retired from the army, was named 

In October 1980, a referendum approved a new constitution, beginning the 
Fifth Republic. This  constitution retained key features of earlier 
ones, including a strong executive and indirect election  of the 
president, but limited the chief executive to a single seven-year term. 
Elections were held in  early 1981 for a National Assembly and an 
electoral college; the latter then elected President  Chun to a seven-
year term (1981-88).  

Although martial law ended in January 1981, the government retained 
broad legal powers to  control dissent. An active and articulate 
minority of students, intellectuals, clergy, and others  remained 
critical of the Chun government and demonstrated against it.  

In April 1986 the president appeared to yield to a signature campaign by 
the opposition New  Korea Democratic Party (NKDP) that demanded an 
amendment to the Constitution that would  allow direct election of the 
next president. They agreed to eight demands for reform including  
constitutional revision, repeal or revision of onerous laws, and release 
of political prisoners.  However in June 1987, Chun suspended all 
discussion of constitutional revision, and the ruling  Democratic 
Justice Party (DJP) approved Chun's handpicked successor, Roh Tae Woo.  
Students, and then the general public, took to the streets to protest 
Chun's suspension of  constitutional revision. On June 29, in a surprise 
move, ruling party presidential candidate Roh  Tae Woo distanced himself 
from President Chun by announcing that he would implement  democratic 
reforms if elected. The constitution was revised in October to include 
direct  presidential elections and a strengthened National Assembly 
consisting of 299 members.  

Because of a power struggle, the NKDP soon split into two opposition 
parties-Kim Dae Jung's  Peace and Democracy Party (PPD) and Kim Young 
Sam's Reunification Democratic Party  (RDP). In December 1987 Roh Tae 
Woo won with 37% of the vote in the first direct presidential  election 
since 1971. Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam, unable to agree on a single 
candidate,  both ran and lost. 

The new constitution entered into force in February 1988, when President 
Roh assumed office.  Elections for the National Assembly were held on 
April 26. President Roh's ruling Democratic  Justice Party (DJP) won 
only 34% of the popular vote, thereby losing control of the  Assembly-
the first time this had happened since 1952. The final count was 125 
seats for the DJP,  70 seats for Kim Dae Jung's Party for Peace and 
Democracy (PPD), Kim Young Sam's  Reunification Democratic Party (RDP) 
won 59 seats, Kim Jong Pil's New Democratic  Republican Party (NDRP) 
took 35 seats, and 10 seats went to independent candidates. 

South Korean politics changed dramatically because of the 1988 
legislative elections, the  Assembly's greater powers under the 1987 
constitution, and the influence of public opinion. Since 1987 there has 
been significant political liberalization, including greater freedom of 
the press, greater freedoms of expression and assembly, and the 
restoration of the civil rights of former detainees. 

The new opposition-dominated National Assembly quickly challenged the 
president's  prerogatives. In July 1988 it turned down President Roh's 
choice for chief of the Supreme Court.  In the fall, the Assembly 
conducted the first government audit in 16 years and began televised  
hearings into the practices and policies of former President Chun's 
Fifth Republic. By late  November, Chun was forced to make a public 
apology to the nation, turn over his personal  wealth to the nation, and 
go into internal exile in a Buddhist temple. In December, the government  
and the Assembly-for the first time-worked together cooperatively to 
pass the budget.  

In January 1990 the three political parties led by President Roh, Kim 
Young Sam, and Kim Jong  Pil merged to form the Democratic Liberal Party 
(DLP). This new alliance left Kim Dae Jung and his Party for Peace and 
Democracy (PPD) as the primary opposition. In March 1991 the R.O.K. held 
its first local elections in 30 years, electing delegates to local 
councils (but not to local executive organs), and the trend toward 
greater democratization continued to gain momentum. In free and fair 
elections in December 1992, Kim Young Sam, the former opposition leader 
now leading the DLP, received 43% of the vote and became Korea's first 
civilian president in nearly 30 years. 

In June 1995, Korea held direct elections for local and provincial 
executive officials (mayors,  governors, county and ward chiefs) for the 
first time in more than 30 years. Although the ruling  DLP won only five 
of 15 major posts, it accepted the results and the process of the 
election was widely  regarded as a huge step for political progress and 
democracy in Korea. At the end of 1995, the  LDP changed its name to the 
New Korea Party (NKP). 

During the fall of 1997, the presidential campaign took place to elect a 
successor to Kim Young Sam on December 18.  Major candidates included 
Lee Hoi Chang of the NKP, Kim Dae Jung of the National Congress for New 
Politics (NCNP), Kim Jong Pil of the United Liberal Democrats (ULD), Cho 
Soon of the Democratic Party, and People's New Party candidate Rhee In 

Principal Government Officials (September 1997)

President: Kim Young Sam 
Prime Minister: Koh Kun
Deputy Prime Minister, National Unification Board Minister: Kwon O Kie 
Deputy Prime Minister, Finance and Economy Minister: Kang Kyong Shik 
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Yoo Chong Ha 
Minister of Home Affairs: Cho Hae Nyoung 
Minister of Justice: Kim Jong Koo
Minister of Defense: Kim Dong Jin
Minister of Education: Lee Myung Hyun 
Minister of Culture & Sports: Song Tae Ho 
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, & Fisheries: Lee Hyo Gae 
Minister of Trade and Industry: Lim Chang Yuel 
Minister of Information and Communication: Kang Bong Kyun 
Minister of Environment: Yoon Yeo Joon 
Minister of Construction and Transportation: Lee Hwan Kyun 
Ambassador to the United States: Park Kun Woo 
Ambassador to the UN: Park Soo Gil 
Speaker of the National Assembly: Kim Soo Han
Korea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2450 Massachusetts 
Avenue NW, 
Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-5600). 


Over the past 30 years, the Republic of Korea's economic growth has been 
spectacular. Despite  the need to maintain a large military, South 
Korea, one of the world's poorest countries only a  generation ago, is 
now the United States' seventh-largest trading partner and has the 11th-
largest  economy in the world.  

The division of the Korean peninsula in 1945 created two unbalanced 
economic units. North  Korea inherited most of the peninsula's mineral 
and hydroelectric resources and most of the heavy  industrial base built 
by the Japanese. South Korea was left with a large, unskilled labor pool 
and  most of the peninsula's limited agricultural resources. Both North 
and South suffered massive  destruction in the Korean war, but an influx 
of refugees added to the South's economic woes.  South Korea began the 
postwar period with a per capita gross national product (GNP) far below  
that of the North. It received large amounts of U.S. foreign assistance 
until the 1970s. All direct  aid from the United States ended in 1980.  

South Korea's meager mineral resources include tungsten, anthracite 
coal, iron ore, limestone,  kaolinite, and graphite. There is no oil, 
and energy is a continuing concern for the R.O.K.'s  economic planners. 
An ambitious program to develop nuclear power is well underway; Korea  
currently has twelve nuclear plants in operation, with four others under 

The nation's successful industrial growth program began in the early 
1960s, when the Park  government instituted sweeping economic reforms 
emphasizing exports and labor-intensive light  industries. The 
government also 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 (HCI), as well as consumer electronics  
and automobiles.  

From 1963 to 1978, real GNP rose at an annual rate of nearly 10%, with 
average real growth of  more than 11% for the years 1973-78. While 
Korea's national production was rising throughout  the 1960s and 1970s, 
the annual population growth rate declined to slightly below 1%, 
resulting in  a 20-fold increase in per capita GNP. Per capita GNP, 
which reached $100 for the first time in  1963, now exceeds $10,000, or 
ten times that of North Korea.  

Since 1978, Korea has continued its strong economic growth interspersed 
with occasional  periods of slow down. From 1979-83, growth slowed in 
Korea due largely to the effects of world  economic developments, 
including the drastic increase in world oil prices in 1979. External 
debt  was also a serious concern during that period, peaking at $47 
billion in 1985. Rapid growth in  exports has eased the debt management 
problem, a major priority of the government as Korea's  external debt 
continues to increase. Economic growth strengthened again beginning in 
1983, and  from 1986 to 1988 booming exports led to growth rates 
averaging 12% per year. Current  account surpluses reached a total of 
$14 billion by the end of 1988, at which time foreign debt  had 
decreased to $31 billion-18% of GNP and 44% of exports. 

Korea's global trade and current account surpluses and the bilateral 
surplus with the U.S. have  declined since 1989, yielding a trade 
deficit with the U.S. for the first time in 1994. A stronger won, labor 
disputes in the wake of the 1987 democratization, cumulative wage 
increases, and strong domestic demand all contributed to this 

At the beginning of the decade, government stabilization policies 
clamped down on construction,  private consumption, and investment. 
Consequently, real GNP growth slowed to approximately  5% in 1992. 
Increases in private consumption and investment spending, particularly 
by the large  conglomerates, or chaebol, drove a new period of expansion 
peaking in 1995, when annual GDP  growth reached 9%. A drop in GDP 
growth to 6.2% in 1997 has created concern in Korea that  its 
international competitiveness is declining.  

Following the R.O.K.'s 1988 decision to allow trade with the D.P.R.K., 
South Korean firms began to import North Korean goods, all via third-
country contracts. The D.P.R.K. does not acknowledge this trade. 
Nevertheless, the North publicized a late January 1989 visit by Hyundai 
Corporation founder Chung Ju Yong as well as a private protocol he 
signed to develop tourism and other projects in the North. Trade between 
the two Koreas increased 16-fold from $18.8 million in 1989 to $310 
million in 1995. During this period of greater economic cooperation, 
Daewoo's chairman, Kim Woo Choong, visited the North and an agreement 
was reached to build a light industrial complex at Nampo. In other 
negotiations there were discussions to establish road and rail links 
between the two Koreas. The first contract  directly negotiated by 
businesspeople of both sides was signed in the spring of 1993. While  
inter-Korean trade has remained substantial, military tensions and 
economic problems in North Korea have contributed to a slowdown.  In 
1996 inter-Korean trade measured approximately $250 million. 

Although prospects for long-term growth remain bright, there are several 
challenges-external and internal-to South Korea's continued economic 
progress. Historically, much of Korea's prosperity was achieved through 
strict adherence to an export-driven market model. Today Korea must 
redefine its role in an environment of increasing economic 
interdependence as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and 
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). High 
tariffs and other trade barriers continue to impede progress in opening 
the Korean market to foreign products.

Internally, Korea is seeking to transform itself into a high wage/high 
technology industrialized country. The success of this transformation 
hinges to a great degree on the success of current policies stressing 
liberalization, reform and globalization. Departing from a long history 
of government-led growth, the current administration favors a policy of 
deregulation and greater reliance on market mechanisms to ensure 
continued growth and prosperity in the future. As Korea approaches the 
21st century, its prospects for continued economic success remain 


In August 1991, South Korea joined the United Nations along with North 
Korea, and since then  has been active in most UN specialized agencies 
and many international fora. The Republic of  Korea has also hosted 
major international events, such as the 1988 Summer Olympics and the  
1993 Taejon Expo. In 1994 South Korea announced its candidacy for 
membership in the  Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 
(OECD) as well as for a  non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.. 

South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with more than 170 countries 
and a broad network of  trading relationships. Former President Roh's 
policy of Nordpolitik-the pursuit of wide-ranging  relations with 
socialist nations and contacts and dialogue with North Korea-has been a  
remarkable success. The R.O.K. now has diplomatic ties with all the 
countries of Eastern and  Central Europe, as well as the former Soviet 
Republics. The R.O.K. and the People's Republic of  China established 
full diplomatic relations in August 1992. 

Since normalizing relations in 1965, Japan and Korea have developed an 
extensive relationship  centering on mutually beneficial economic 
activity. Although historic antipathies have at times  impeded 
cooperation, relations at the government level have improved steadily 
and significantly in  the past several years. Korea, Japan, and the U.S. 
consulted extraordinarily closely during  U.S.-D.P.R.K. negotiations 
over the North Korean nuclear issue. 

Economic considerations have a high priority in Korean foreign policy. 
South Korea is a founding  member of the Asia-Pacific Economic 
Cooperation (APEC) forum. It seeks to build on its  economic 
accomplishments to increase its regional and global role, including 
playing an  increasingly important part in political and economic 
activities in the Pacific Rim.  

Negotiating Efforts With North Korea

Throughout the postwar period, both Korean governments repeatedly 
affirmed their desire for  reunification of the Korean peninsula, but 
until 1971 they had no official communication or other  contact. In 
August 1971 North and South Korea agreed to hold talks through their 
respective  Red Cross societies with the aim of reuniting the many 
Korean families separated following the  division of Korea and the 
Korean war. After a series of secret meetings, both sides announced on  
July 4, 1972 an agreement to work toward peaceful reunification and an 
end to the hostile  atmosphere prevailing on the peninsula. Officials 
exchanged visits, and communications were  established through a South-
North coordinating committee and the Red Cross. 

These initial contacts broke down and finally ended on August 13, 1973 
following President Park  Chung Hee's announcement that the South would 
seek separate entry into the United Nations,  and the kidnapping of 
South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae Jung from Tokyo by the South  
Korean intelligence service. The breakdown reflected basic differences 
in approach, with  Pyongyang insisting on immediate steps toward 
reunification before discussing specific issues and  Seoul maintaining 
that, given the long history of mutual distrust, reunification must come 
through a  gradual, step-by-step process. 

Tension between North and South Korea increased dramatically in the 
aftermath of the 1983  North Korean assassination attempt on President 
Chun in Burma. The bombing in Rangoon killed  six members of the R.O.K. 
cabinet. South Korea's suspicions of the North's motives were not  
diminished when Pyongyang accepted an earlier U.S.-R.O.K. proposal for 
tripartite talks on the  future of the Korean peninsula. This 
initiative, made public in January 1984, called for talks with  the 
United States in which "South Korean authorities" would be permitted to 
participate. North  Korea proposed to replace the armistice agreement 
with a peace treaty, which would provide for  withdrawal of all U.S. 
troops and set the stage for a declaration of non-aggression between 
North  and South. 

North Korea's provision of relief goods to victims of severe flooding in 
South Korea in  September 1984 led to revived dialogue on several 
fronts: Red Cross talks to address the plight  of separated families, 
economic and trade talks, and parliamentary talks. However, in January  
1986, the North suspended all talks, arguing that annual R.O.K./U.S. 
military exercises were  inconsistent with dialogue. The North also 
announced a moratorium on large-scale military  exercises and called 
upon the United States and the Republic of Korea to do the same. The 
U.S.  and the R.O.K. responded by reiterating their longstanding offer 
to allow D.P.R.K. officials to  observe exercises and by proposing pre-
notification of military exercises. These proposals were  rejected by 
the North, and in 1987 the North resumed large-scale exercises. 

In a major initiative on July 7, 1988, South Korean President Roh Tae 
Woo called for new efforts  to promote exchanges, family reunification, 
inter-Korean trade, and contact in international fora.  President Roh 
called on Korea's friends and allies to pursue contacts with the North 
and said that  the South intended to seek better relations with the 
U.S.S.R. and China. 

Roh's initiative provided renewed momentum for dialogue. The two sides 
met several times at  Panmunjom in an unsuccessful attempt to arrange a 
joint meeting of the two Korean parliaments.  Meetings to discuss 
arrangements for prime ministerial-level talks led to a series of such 
meetings  starting in 1990. In late 1991 the two sides signed the 
Agreement on Reconciliation,  Non-aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation 
and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of  the Korean 
Peninsula. The Joint Declaration called for a bilateral nuclear 
inspection regime to  verify the denuclearization of the peninsula. When 
North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Kim  Tal-Hyon visited South Korea for 
economic talks in July 1992, President Roh Tae Woo  announced that full 
North-South Economic Cooperation would not be possible without 
resolution  of the North Korean nuclear issue. There was little progress 
toward the establishment of an  inspection regime, and dialogue between 
the South and North stalled in the fall of 1992. 

The North's agreement to accept International Atomic Energy Agency 
(IAEA) safeguards in  1992 initiated a series of IAEA inspections of 
North Korea's nuclear facilities. This promising  development was halted 
by the North's refusal to allow special inspections of two areas  
suspected of holding nuclear waste, and the North's threat to withdraw 
from the Nuclear  Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which also brought 
North-South progress to an abrupt halt. 

After a period of high tension brought on by failure to resolve the 
nuclear issue, and Security  Council discussion of UN sanctions against 
the D.P.R.K., former President Carter's visit to  Pyongyang in June 1994 
helped to defuse tensions and resulted in renewed South-North talks.  
However, the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on July 8, 
1994 halted plans for  a first ever South-North presidential summit and 
led to another period of inter-Korean animosity. 

The U.S.-D.P.R.K. bilateral talks which began in the spring of 1993 
finally resulted in a framework agreement signed by representatives of 
both nations in Geneva on October 21, 1994.  This Agreed Framework 
committed North Korea to freeze its graphite-moderated reactors and 
related facilities, which could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear 
weapons development. In addition, under the Agreed Framework, North 
Korea agreed to hold expert talks with the U.S. to decide on specific 
arrangements for the storage of the D.P.R.K.'s spent nuclear fuel rods 
(which otherwise could be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium). In 
return, the D.P.R.K. was to receive alternative energy, initially in the 
form of heavy oil, and eventually two proliferation-resistant light 
water reactors (LWR). The agreement also included gradual improvement of 
relations between the U.S. and the D.P.R.K., and committed North Korea 
to engage in South-North dialogue. A few weeks after the signing of the 
Agreed Framework, President Kim loosened restrictions on South Korean 
firms desiring to pursue business opportunities with the North. Although 
North Korea continued to refuse official overtures by the South, 
economic contacts appeared to be expanding gradually. 

In the past three years, several milestones have been reached regarding 
the implementation of the Agreed Framework. On March 9, 1995, the 
Governments of the United States, Republic of Korea and Japan agreed to 
establish the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, commonly 
referred to as KEDO. KEDO's task is to implement the LWR and heavy fuel 
oil (HFO) commitments of the Agreed Framework. Since its inception, 
eight other countries have joined KEDO, making the organization truly 
international. On December 15, 1995, KEDO concluded a Supply Agreement 
with the D.P.R.K. concerning the details of implementing the LWR 
project. Six protocols to the Supply Agreement have already been 
concluded over the past two years.  Groundbreaking on the LWR project 
took place on August 19, 1997. The 15-member European Union joined KEDO 
and become an executive board member on September 19, 1997. The safe 
storage of North Korea's spent nuclear fuel rods was essentially 
completed by the U.S. Department of Energy at the end of October 1997. 
Finally, the freeze on North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors and 
related facilities has been in effect since November 1994.

On April 16, 1996, Presidents Clinton and Kim invited the D.P.R.K. and 
the People's Republic of China to participate in Four Party peace talks 
with the U.S. and R.O.K. on the future of the Korean peninsula. North 
Korea subsequently agreed to attend a joint briefing in New York on the 
Four Party initiative, which took place in March 1997. The four parties 
later convened again in New York for two rounds of preliminary peace 
talks in August and September 1997, but have not yet reached agreement 
on an agenda for full Four Party peace talks. The Four Party initiative 
remained on the table, however, with contacts continuing among the four 
parties to realize formal talks.


The United States is committed to maintaining peace and stability on the 
Korean peninsula and  agreed in the 1954 U.S.-R.O.K. Mutual Defense 
Treaty to help the Republic of Korea defend  itself from external 
aggression. In support of this commitment, the United States currently  
maintains about 37,000 service personnel in Korea, including the Army's 
Second Infantry Division  and several Air Force tactical squadrons. To 
coordinate operations between these units and the  650,000-strong Korean 
armed forces, a Combined Forces Command (CFC) was established in  1978. 
The CFC is headed by Gen. Gary Luck, who also serves as Commander-in-
Chief of the  United Nations Command (UNC) and the U.S. Forces in Korea 

Several aspects of the security relationship are changing as the U.S. 
moves from a leading to a  supporting role. South Korea has agreed to 
pay a larger portion of USFK's stationing costs, and  to promote changes 
in the CFC command structure. On December 1, 1994, peacetime  
operational control authority over all South Korean military units still 
under U.S. operational  control was transferred to the South Korean 
Armed Forces. 

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 themselves to decide. The U.S. is prepared to  assist in this 
process if the two sides so desire. 

As Korea's economy has developed, trade has become an increasingly 
important aspect of the  U.S.-Korea relationship. Korea is currently the 
United States' eighth-largest trading partner. The  U.S. seeks to 
improve access to Korea's expanding market and increase investment 
opportunities  for American business. Although they have met with 
resistance from within the Korean  bureaucracy, President Kim's economic 
reform plans mark a dramatic endorsement of a more  liberal, market-
based economic system. Korean leaders appear determined to manage  
successfully the complex economic relationship with the United States 
and to take a more active  role in international economic fora as befits 
Korea's status as a major trading nation. 

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador: Stephen W. Bosworth
Commander in Chief, UNC: Gen. John Tilelli 
Deputy Chief of Mission: Richard A. Christenson
Counselor for Political Affairs: James Whitlock
Counselor for Economic Affairs: Ben Fairfax 
Counselor for Administrative Affairs: Catherine M. Smith
Counselor for Public Affairs: Jeremy Curtin 
Consul General: Kathryn Dee Robinson 
Counselor for Commercial Affairs: Jerry K. Mitchell 
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs: William Brant 
Chief, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Korea (JUSMAG-K): Col. Thomas 
Defense Attache: Col. Robert Elliott, U.S. Army

The U.S. embassy is located at 82 Sejong-Ro, Chongro-Ku, Seoul; Unit 
15550, APO AP  96205-0001. (tel. 82-2-397-4114; fax: 82-2-738-8845.  The 
U.S. Agricultural Trade Office is located at 146-1, Susong-dong, 
Chongro-Ku, Leema  Bldg., Rm. 303, Seoul 110-140; fax no. 82-2-720-7921.  
The U.S. Export Development Office/U.S. Trade Center is c/o U.S. 
Embassy. fax no.  82-2-739-1628. Director: Camille Sailer.  


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). 
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will 
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. 
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is 
required). The CABB also carries international security information from 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication 
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a 
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information:

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at .

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is 
available on the Internet () and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at 
(202) 482-1986 for more information. 

[end document]

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