Background Notes: South Korea, October 1998
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Korea
Area: 98,500 sq. km. (38,000 sq. mi.); about the size of Indiana.
Cities (1998): Capital--Seoul (11 million). Other major cities--
Pusan (3.9 million), Taegu (2.5 million), Inchon (2.4 million),
Kwangju (1.4 million), Taejon (1.3 million).
Terrain: Partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep,
narrow valleys; cultivated plains along the coasts, particularly
in the west and south.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Korean(s).
Population (1998): 46.9 million.
Annual growth rate (1997): 1.02%.
Ethnic groups: Korean; small Chinese minority.
Religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism,
Education: Years compulsory--9. Enrollment--11.5 million.
Attendance--middle school 99%, high school 95%. Literacy--98%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8/1,000 (1997 est.) Life
expectancy--men 70.1 yrs., women 77.7 yrs (1997 est.)
Work force (1997 est.): 21.5 million. Services--61%. Mining and
Type: Republic with powers shared between the president and the
Liberation: August 15, 1945.
Constitution: July 17, 1948; last revised 1987.
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: National Congress for New Politics (NCNP);
Grand National Party (GNP); United Liberal Democrats (ULD); New
Party of the People (NPP); Democratic Party (DP).
Suffrage: Universal at 20.
Central government budget (1996): Expenditures--$101 billion
(including $20 billion in capital expenditures).
Defense (1996): $17 billion, about 3.3% of nominal GDP and 23.3%
of government budget (prior to capital expenditures); about
Nominal GDP (1998 est.): $442 billion.
GDP growth rate (1998 est.): -7%.
Per capita GNP (1998 est.): $6,200.
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 machinery.
Trade: Exports--(1996) $129.8 billion: manufactures, textiles,
ships, automobiles, steel, computers, footwear. Major markets--
U.S., Japan, ASEAN, European Union. Imports--(1997) $144.6
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 (October 1998): approx. 1330 won=U.S. $1.
Fiscal year: Calendar year.
The origins of the Korean people are obscure. Korea was first
populated by a people or peoples who migrated to the peninsula
from the northwestern regions of Asia, some of whom also settled
parts of northeast China (Manchuria). Koreans are racially and
linguistically homogeneous, with no sizable indigenous
minorities, except for some Chinese (approximately 20,000).
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 of 1910-45 concentrated its
industrial development efforts in the comparatively under-
populated 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 in 1945. This migration
continued after the Republic of Korea was established in 1948 and
during the Korean war (1950-53). About 10% of the people now in
the Republic of Korea are of northern origin. With 46 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 Korea 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
Korean shares several grammatical features with Japanese, but is
not linguistically related. Strong similarities with Mongolian
exist, but the exact relationship between the two languages is
unclear. Although regional dialects exist, the language spoken
throughout the peninsula and in China is comprehensible by all
Koreans. Chinese characters were used to write Korean before the
Korean Hangul alphabet was invented in the 15th century. Chinese
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, and many educated South
Koreans can speak and/or read English, which is taught in all
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. Confucianism remains a
dominant cultural influence. Since the Japanese occupation, it
has existed more as a shared base than as a separate
philosophical/religious school. 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% of them 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. It has
suffered approximately 900 invasions during its 2,000 years of
recorded history. Korea was under Mongolian occupation from 1231
until the early 14th century and was repeatedly ravaged by
Chinese (government and rebel) armies. The Japanese warlord
Hideyoshi launched major invasions in 1592 and 1597.
China had by far the greatest influence of the major powers and
was the most acceptable to the Koreans. The Choson Dynasty was
part of the Chinese "tribute" system, under which Korea was
independent in fact, but acknowledged China's theoretical role as
"big brother." China was the only exception to Korea's long
closed-door policy, adopted to ward off foreign encroachment,
which earned it the name of "Hermit Kingdom" in the 19th century.
Korea's isolation finally ended when the major Western powers and
Japan sent warships to forcibly open the country. At the same
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, 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
of the U.S., U.K., Soviet Union, and China was intended as a
temporary administrative measure pending democratic elections for
a Korean government. With the unexpected early surrender of Japan
in September 1945, the United States proposed--and the Soviet
Union agreed--that Japanese troops surrender to U.S. forces below
the 38th parallel and to Soviet forces above.
At a December 1945 foreign ministers' conference in Moscow, it
was proposed that a 5-year trusteeship be established in Korea.
The Moscow conference generated a firestorm of protest in the
South. Some if its most critical opponents were 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 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
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 (ROK) was established.
Syngman Rhee became the Republic of Korea's first president. On
September 9, 1948, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
(DPRK) was established in the North under Kim Il Sung. Both
administrations claimed to be the only legitimate government on
Armed uprisings in the South and clashes between Southern and
Northern forces along the 38th parallel began and intensified
during 1948-50. Although it continued to provide modest military
aid to the South, the U.S. withdrew its occupation forces by June
1949, leaving behind only a military advisory group of 500.
Korean War of 1950-53
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
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
Although armistice negotiations began in July 1951, hostilities
continued until 1953 with heavy losses on both sides. On July 27,
1953 the military commanders of the North Korean Army, the
Chinese People's Volunteers, and the UNC signed an armistice
agreement at Panmunjom. 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 DPRK 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.
Syngman Rhee served as president of the Republic of Korea until
April 1960, when unrest led by university students forced him to
step down. Though the constitution was amended and national
elections were held in June, Maj. Gen. Park Chung Hee led an army
coup against the successor government and assumed power in May
1961. After 2 years of military government under Park, civilian
rule was restored in 1963. Park, who had retired from the army,
was elected president and was reelected in 1967, 1971, and 1978
in highly controversial elections.
The Park era, marked by rapid industrial modernization and
extraordinary economic growth, ended with his assassination in
October 1979. Prime Minister Choi Kyu Ha briefly assumed office,
promising a new constitution and presidential elections. However,
in December 1979 Maj. Gen. Chun Doo Hwan and close military
colleagues staged a coup, removing the army chief of staff and
soon effectively controlling the government. University student-
led demonstrations against Chun's government spread in the spring
of 1980 until the government declared martial law, banning all
demonstrations, and arresting many political leaders and
dissidents. Special forces units in the city of Kwangju dealt
particularly harshly with demonstrators and residents, setting
off a chain of events which left at least 200 civilians dead.
This became a critically important event in contemporary South
Korean political history. Chun, by then retired from the army,
officially became President in September 1980. Though martial law
ended in January 1981, his government retained broad legal powers
to control dissent. Nevertheless, 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 demands for
reform--particularly for a constitutional amendment allowing
direct election of his successor. However, in June 1987 Chun
suspended all discussion of constitutional revision, and the
ruling Democratic Justice Party (DJP) approved Chun's hand-picked
successor, Roh Tae Woo. In response, first students and then the
general public took to the streets in protest. Then in a surprise
move, on June 29, ruling party presidential candidate Roh Tae Woo
announced the implementation of democratic reforms. The
constitution was revised in October 1987 to include direct
presidential elections and a strengthened National Assembly
consisting of 299 members.
The main opposition forces soon split into two parties--Kim Dae-
jung's Peace and Democracy Party (PPD) and Kim Young Sam's
Reunification Democratic Party (RDP). With the opposition vote
split, Roh Tae Woo subsequently won the December 1987
presidential election--the first direct one since 1971--with 37%
of the vote.
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 was then able to win only 34% of the vote in the April 1988
National Assembly elections--the first time the ruling party had
lost control of the Assembly since 1952.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
South Korea is a republic with powers shared between the
president and the legislature. The president is chief of state
and is elected for a term of 5 years. The 299 members of the
unicameral National Assembly are elected to FOUR-YEAR terms.
South Korea's judicial system comprises a Supreme Court,
appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. The country has 9
provinces and 6 administratively separate cities (Seoul, Pusan,
Inchon, Taegu, Kwangju, and aejon). Political parties include the
National Congress for New Politics (NCNP), Grand National Party
(GNP), United Liberal Democrats (ULD), New Party of the People
(NPP), and Democratic Party (DP). Suffrage is universal at age
South Korean politics were changed dramatically by the 1988
legislative elections, the Assembly's greater powers under the
1987 constitution, and the influence of public opinion. After
1987 there was 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.
The trend toward greater democratization continued. In free and
fair elections in December 1992, Kim Young Sam, the former
opposition leader who joined the ruling party of Roh Tae Woo,
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. In August 1996, ex-Presidents Chun and Roh were
convicted on corruption and treason charges but were pardoned by
President Kim Young Sam in December 1997.
Kim Dae-jung of the National Congress for New Politics (NCNP) won
the December 1997 presidential election, defeating Lee Hoi Chang
of the renamed ruling party, the Grand National Party (GNP), and
the New Party for the People (NPP) candidate Rhee In Je. Kim's
1997 win was the first true opposition party victory in a Korean
presidential election. Kim had previously been a political
prisoner who narrowly escaped assassination and execution on
several occasions, and who spent time in exile in Japan and the
U.S. Kim's political opponents have long charged that he was
sympathetic to the DPRK, most recently during the presidential
election campaign. Such charges are rooted more firmly in
Korea's no-holds-barred political culture than in fact. Kim has
articulated an engagement policy toward the North based on the
separation of economic and political issues, but which takes a
firm line on security, mandating zero tolerance for provocations
from the DPRK.
Principal Government Officials:
Prime Minister--Kim Chong-p'il
Minister of Unification--Kang In-tok
Finance and Economy Minister--Yi Kyu-song
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade-Hong Soon-young
Minister of National Defense--Chon Yong-taek
Minister of Justice--Pak Sang-ch'on
Minister of Education--Yi Hae-ch'an
Minister of Culture and Tourism--Sin Nak-kyun
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry--Kim Song-hun
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy--Pak Tae-yong
Minister of Information and Communication--Pae Sun-hun
Minister of Environment--Ch'oe Chae-uk
Minister of Construction and Transportation--Yi Chong-mu
Korea maintains an embassy in the United States at 2450
Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-
The ongoing region-wide Asian financial crisis, which began in
1997, has drastically affected Korea's economy. Prior to this
crisis, the Republic of Korea's economic growth over the past 30
years was 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, until the economic crisis of late 1997, was
ranked as 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 for many years, although
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 ROK's
economic planners. An ambitious program to develop nuclear power
is well underway; Korea currently has 12 nuclear plants in
operation, with four others under construction.
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, 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 economic growth continued at a rapid pace
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 only reached $100 for the
first time in 1963, exceeded $10,000 in 1997, or 10 times that of
Strong economic growth has largely continued since 1978. Korea's
global trade and current account surpluses and its bilateral
surplus with the U.S. have declined since 1989, which yielded a
trade deficit with the U.S. for the first time in 1994. At the
beginning of this 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 which peaked in 1995 when annual
GDP growth reached 9%.
Following the ROK's 1988 decision to allow trade with the DPRK,
South Korean firms began to import North Korean goods, all via
third-country contracts. The DPRK 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 chairman Kim Woo Choong
visited the North and reached an agreement to build a light
industrial complex at Nampo. The establishment of road and rail
links has been addressed in other discussions. 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.
In December 1997 the ROK entered a severe financial crisis as
foreign exchange reserves became inadequate for meeting short-
term obligations and numerous private-sector conglomerates faced
the possibility of bankruptcy. As of late October 1998, a far-
reaching economic reform program launched by President Kim, in
conjunction with assistance from the IMF, had stabilized the
financial situation, and a financial and corporate restructuring
program had begun. However, the economic situation remained
grim, with unemployment of 8% and negative 7% GDP growth. Reform
of the large industrial/commercial conglomerates (chaebol), whose
excessive debt levels and non-market-based investments played a
part in bringing about the financial crisis, will be central to
Korea's economic recovery.
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 has been chosen to co-host the 2002 World Cup
(with Japan). South Korea became a member of the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996 and completed
a term as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council at
the end of 1997.
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 contact with North
Korea--has been a remarkable success. The ROK now has diplomatic
ties with all the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, as
well as the former Soviet republics. The ROK and the People's
Republic of China established full diplomatic relations in August
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. consult very closely during
periodic U.S.-DPRK negotiations over the North Korean nuclear
Economic considerations have a high priority in Korean foreign
policy. The ROK seeks to build on its economic accomplishments to
increase its regional and global role, including playing an
increasingly important part in Pacific Rim political and economic
activities. It is a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Korean Peninsula: Reunification Efforts Since 1971
Though both Korean governments have repeatedly affirmed their
desire for reunification of the Korean Peninsula, the two had no
official communication or other contact until 1971. At that time
they 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 a 1972
agreement to work toward peaceful reunification and an end to the
hostile atmosphere prevailing on the peninsula. These initial
contacts ended in August 1973 following President Park'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, which killed six members of the ROK
cabinet. South Korea's suspicions of the North's motives were not
diminished when Pyongyang accepted an earlier U.S.-ROK proposal
for tripartite talks on the future of the Korean Peninsula, in
which "South Korean authorities" would be permitted to
participate. 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 ROK-U.S. military
exercises were inconsistent with dialogue. The North resumed its
own large-scale exercises in 1987.
In July 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
USSR and China. The two sides then 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. Nevertheless, there was little progress toward the
establishment of a bilateral nuclear inspection regime, and
dialogue between the South and North stalled in the fall of 1992.
In 1992 the North agreed to accept International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) safeguards as well as a series of IAEA inspections
of North Korea's nuclear facilities. In practice though, the
North refused to allow special inspections of two areas suspected
of holding nuclear waste, and threatened to withdraw from the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--bringing North-South
progress to an abrupt halt in the process. After a period of high
tension brought on by failure to resolve the nuclear issue, as
well as UN Security Council discussion of sanctions against the
DPRK, former President Carter's visit to Pyongyang in June 1994
helped to defuse tensions and resulted in renewed South-North
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.
U.S.-DPRK 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 DPRK's spent nuclear fuel rods (which
otherwise could be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium). In
return, the DPRK was to receive alternative energy, initially in
the form of heavy oil, and eventually two proliferation-resistant
light water reactors (LWR).
The 1994 agreement also included gradual improvement of relations
between the U.S. and the DPRK, and committed North Korea to
engage in South-North dialogue. A few weeks after the signing of
the Agreed Framework, President Kim Young Sam loosened
restrictions on South Korean firms wanting to pursue business
opportunities with the North. Although North Korea continued to
refuse official overtures by the South, economic contacts
appeared to expand gradually. Shortly after his inauguration,
President Kim Dae-jung declared that restraints on investment and
communication with North Korea by private entities would be
In recent 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
DPRK concerning the details of implementing the LWR project. Six
protocols to the Supply Agreement have already been concluded
over the past 2 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 U.S. Department of Energy at the end of October 1997
essentially completed the safe storage of North Korea's spent
nuclear fuel rods. The freeze on North Korea's graphite-moderated
reactors and related facilities has now been in effect since
On April 16, 1996, Presidents Clinton and Kim invited the DPRK
and the People's Republic of China to participate in Four-Party
peace talks with the U.S. and ROK on the future of the Korean
Peninsula. Following six preparatory meetings, the first Four-
Party plenary session took place in Geneva in December 1997, the
second in March 1998, and the third in October 1998.
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. The U.S. is prepared to assist
in this process if the two sides so desire.
In the 1954 U.S.-ROK 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 currently maintains approximately 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 head
of the CFC also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the United
Nations Command (UNC) and the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK).
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.
As Korea's economy has developed, trade has become an
increasingly important aspect of the U.S.-Korea relationship. The
U.S. seeks to improve access to Korea's expanding market and
increase investment opportunities for American business. The
implementation of structural reforms contained in the IMF's 1998
program for Korea should improve access to the Korean market.
Korean leaders appear determined to successfully manage 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. Embassy 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--Richard C. Hermann
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Jerry K. Mitchell
Counselor for Agricultural Affairs--William Brant
Chief, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Korea (JUSMAG-K)--Col.
Defense Attachˇ--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
82-2-720-7921. The U.S. Export Development Office/U.S. Trade
Center is c/o U.S. Embassy; fax 82-2-739-1628. Its director is
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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 202-647-4000.
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
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 http://www.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an 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 (www.stat-usa.gov)
and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more
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.
Department of State. The Record on Korean Unification 1943-1960.
Department of the Army. Communist North Korea: A Bibliographic
The following titles are provided as a general indication of the
material published on this country. The Department of State does
not endorse unofficial publications.
Eckert, Carter, Ki-Baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson, and
Edward W. Wagner. Korea Old and New: A History. Seoul: Ilchokak
Publishers for Harvard University Press, 1990.
Gonchanov, Sergei N., John W. Lewis, and Zye Litai. Uncertain
Partners: Stalin, Mao and the Korean War. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1994.
Han, Woo-kuen. The History of Korea. Honolulu: East-West Center
Henriksen, Thomas and Mo, Jong-Ryn, Eds. North Korea After Kim Il
Sung: Continuity or Change? Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution
Henthorn, William. History of Korea. New York: The Free Press,
Kim, Dae-Jung. Three-Stage Approach to Korean Reunification:
Focusing on the South-North Co-federal State. Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1997.
Lee, Ki-Baik. A New History of Korea. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1984.
MacDonald, Donald S. The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and
Society. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.
Merrill, John. Korea: The Peninsular Origins of the War. Newark:
University of Delaware Press, 1988.
Nahm, Andrew C. North Korea: Her Past, Reality, and Impression.
Kalamazoo: Center for Korean Studies, Western Michigan
Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. Reading,
MA: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997.
Palais, James B. Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Ridgeway, Matthew B. Korean War. New York: Doubleday, 1964.
Sigal, Leon V. Disarming Strangers Nuclear Diplomacy with North
Korea. Princeton University Press, 1998
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.
--ROK Embassy page is at http://korea.emb.washington.dc.us.
--Korea Society page is at http://www.koreasociety.org and links
to academic and other sites.
--Nautilus Institute page is at http://www.nautilus.org; this is
produced by the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley, California and
includes press round-up Monday through Friday.
--Korea Web Weekly page is at http://www.kimsoft.com/korea.htm
and links to North Korean sites.
--Korea Herald page is at http://www.koreaherald.co.kr; this is a
South Korean English-language newspaper.
--Korea Times page is at
http://www.korealink.co.kr/times/times.htm; this is a South
Korean English-language newspaper.
--(North) Korean Central News Agency page is at
--Korean Politics page is at http://www.koreanpolitics.com; this
provides information on South Korean politics and links to South
Korean government sites.
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