The earliest neolithic Korean pottery dates to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms flourishing in the 1st century BC. The name Korea is derived from one of them, Goguryeo, which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time, ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, some parts of the Russian Far East and Inner Mongolia, under Gwanggaeto the Great. Since the unification of the Korean kingdoms into Unified Silla and Balhae in the 7th century, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under long-lasting dynasties. Koreans developed improved versions of many advanced innovations such as the metal movable type printing press, which used to print and publish the Jikji, the world's oldest extant movable metal type printed paper book in 1377. In the 15th century, Koreans had one of the highest living standards in the world, and Sejong the Great invented Hangul to promote literacy amongst the general Korean population, enabling anyone to easily learn to read and write and transfer written information rather than spend years in learning complicated Hanja. Its rich and vibrant culture left 19 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the third largest in the world, along with 12 World Heritage Sites.
Annexed into Imperial Japan in 1910, the country's current political structure dates back to 1919 when the Korean Provisional Government was organized in Shanghai, China as a government in exile and then moved to Chungking to resist the Japanese occupation of Korea. After Japan's surrender in 1945, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel with the United States controlling the southern part. This region was declared the First Korean Republic on August 15, 1948, but a North Korean invasion led to the Korean War two years later. Peace has since mostly continued with the two agreeing to work peacefully for reunification and the South solidifying peace as a regional power with the world's 10th largest defense budget.
South Korea is one of the Four Asian Tigers. The South Korean economy soared at an annual average of 10% for over 30 years in a period of rapid transformation called the Miracle on the Han River. A long legacy of openness and focus on innovation made it successful. Today, it is the world's seventh largest advanced economy and fifth largest exporter with the G20's largest budget surplus and highest credit rating of any country in East Asia. It has free trade agreements with 75% of the world economy and is the only G20 nation trading freely with China, the US and the EU simultaneously. Since 1988, its constitution guarantees a liberal democracy with high government transparency and many fundamental rights such as universal healthcare. High personal freedoms led to the rise of a globally influential pop culture such as K-pop and K-drama, a phenomenon called the Korean Wave, known for its distinctive fashionable and trendy style. Home of the UN Green Climate Fund and GGGI, South Korea is a leader in low carbon green growth, committed to helping developing countries as a major DAC and Paris Club contributor. It is the world's third least ignorant country in the Index of Ignorance, ranking eighth highest for peaceful tolerance and inclusion of minorities on the Fragile States Index.
South Korea is a technologically advanced developed country driven by a highly educated and skilled workforce, having the world's eighth highest median household income, the highest in Asia. Globally, it ranks highly in personal safety, job security, ease of doing business and healthcare quality, with the world's third highest health adjusted life expectancy and fourth most efficient healthcare system. It is the world's largest spender on R&D per GDP, leading the OECD in graduates in science and engineering and ranking third in the Youth Wellbeing Index. Home of Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia, South Korea was named the world's most innovative country for 4 consecutive years since 2014 in the Bloomberg Innovation Index, ranking first in business R&D intensity, manufacturing value-added, patents filed per GDP, second in higher education efficiency and fourth in high-tech density and researcher concentration. In 2005, it became the world's first country to fully transition to high-speed Internet and today it has the world's fastest Internet speed and highest smartphone ownership, ranking first in ICT Development, e-Government and 4G LTE coverage. South Korea currently provides the world's second largest number of Christian missionaries, surpassed by the United States.
South Korea is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, G20 and a global partner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The name Korea derives from the name Goryeo. The name Goryeo itself was first used by the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo in the 5th century as a shortened form of its name. The 10th-century kingdom of Goryeo succeeded Goguryeo, and thus inherited its name, which was pronounced by visiting Persian merchants as "Korea". The modern spelling of Korea first appeared in the late 17th century in the travel writings of the Dutch East India Company's Hendrick Hamel. Despite the coexistence of the spellings Corea and Korea in 19th century publications, some Koreans believe that Imperial Japan, around the time of the Japanese occupation, intentionally standardised the spelling on Korea, making Japan appear first alphabetically.
After Goryeo was replaced by Joseon in 1392, Joseon became the official name for the entire territory, though it was not universally accepted. The new official name has its origin in the ancient country of Gojoseon (Old Joseon). In 1897, the Joseon dynasty changed the official name of the country from Joseon to Daehan Jeguk (Korean Empire). The name Daehan, which means "great Han" literally, derives from Samhan (Three Hans). However, the name Joseon was still widely used by Koreans to refer to their country, though it was no longer the official name. Under Japanese rule, the two names Han and Joseon coexisted. There were several groups who fought for independence, the most notable being the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (대한민국 임시정부/大韓民國臨時政府).
Following the surrender of Japan, in 1945, the Republic of Korea (대한민국/大韓民國, literally "Great Korean people's country"; listen) was adopted as the legal name for the new country. Since the government only controlled the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, the informal term South Korea was coined, becoming increasingly common in the Western world. While South Koreans use Han (or Hanguk) to refer to the entire country, North Koreans and ethnic Koreans in China and Japan use the term Joseon as the name of the country.
The history of Korea begins with the founding of Joseon (also known as "Gojoseon", or Old Joseon, to differentiate it with the 14th century dynasty) in 2333 BC by Dangun, according to Korea's foundation mythology. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled the northern Korean Peninsula and parts of Manchuria. Gija Joseon was purportedly founded in the 12th century BC, but its existence and role have been controversial in the modern era. In 108 BC, the Han dynasty defeated Wiman Joseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula. Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades. As Lelang commandery was destroyed and rebuilt around this time, the place gradually moved toward Liadong. Thus, its force was diminished and it only served as a trade center until it was conquered by Goguryeo in 313.
During the period known as the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea, the states of Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and Samhan occupied the Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria. From them, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla emerged to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Goguryeo, the largest and most powerful among them, was a highly militaristic state, and competed with various Chinese dynasties during its 700 years of history. Goguryeo experienced a golden age under Gwanggaeto the Great and his son Jangsu, who both subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power on the Korean Peninsula. In addition to contesting for control of the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo had many military conflicts with various Chinese dynasties, most notably the Goguryeo–Sui War, in which Goguryeo defeated a huge force said to number over a million men. Baekje was a great maritime power; its nautical skill, which made it the Phoenicia of East Asia, was instrumental in the dissemination of Buddhism throughout East Asia and continental culture to Japan. Baekje was once a great military power on the Korean Peninsula, especially during the time of Geunchogo, but was critically defeated by Gwanggaeto the Great and declined. Silla was the smallest and weakest of the three, but it used cunning diplomatic means to make opportunistic pacts and alliances with the more powerful Korean kingdoms, and eventually Tang China, to its great advantage.
The unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 676 led to the North South States Period, in which much of the Korean Peninsula was controlled by Later Silla, while Balhae controlled the northern parts of Goguryeo. Balhae was founded by a Goguryeo general and formed as a successor state to Goguryeo. During its height, Balhae controlled most of Manchuria and parts of the Russian Far East, and was called the "Prosperous Country in the East". Later Silla was a golden age of art and culture, as evidenced by the Hwangnyongsa, Seokguram, and Emille Bell. Relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful during this time. Later Silla carried on the maritime prowess of Baekje, which acted like the Phoenicia of medieval East Asia, and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of Jang Bogo; in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the Shandong Peninsula and the mouth of the Yangtze River. Later Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country, and its metropolitan capital of Gyeongju was the fourth largest city in the world. Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists and contributed to Chinese Buddhism, including: Woncheuk, Wonhyo, Uisang, Musang, and Kim Gyo-gak, a Silla prince whose influence made Mount Jiuhua one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism. However, Later Silla weakened under internal strife and the revival of Baekje and Goguryeo, which led to the Later Three Kingdoms period in the late 9th century.
In 936, the Later Three Kingdoms were united by Wang Geon, a descendant of Goguryeo nobility, who established Goryeo as the successor state of Goguryeo. Balhae had fallen to the Khitan Empire in 926, and a decade later the last crown prince of Balhae fled south to Goryeo, where he was warmly welcomed and included into the ruling family by Wang Geon, thus unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo. Like Silla, Goryeo was a highly cultural state, and invented the metal movable type printing press. After defeating the Khitan Empire, which was the most powerful empire of its time, in the Goryeo–Khitan War, Goryeo experienced a golden age that lasted a century, during which the Tripitaka Koreana was completed and there were great developments in printing and publishing, promoting learning and dispersing knowledge on philosophy, literature, religion, and science; by 1100, there were 12 universities that produced famous scholars and scientists. However, the Mongol invasions in the 13th century greatly weakened the kingdom. Goryeo was never conquered by the Mongols, but exhausted after three decades of fighting, the Korean court sent its crown prince to the Yuan capital to swear allegiance to Kublai Khan, who accepted, and married one of his daughters to the Korean crown prince. Henceforth, Goryeo continued to rule Korea, though as a tributary ally to the Mongols for the next 86 years. During this period, the two nations became intertwined as all subsequent Korean kings married Mongol princesses, and the last empress of the Yuan dynasty was a Korean princess. In the mid-14th century, Goryeo drove out the Mongols to regain its northern territories, briefly conquered Liaoyang, and defeated invasions by the Red Turbans. However, in 1392, General Yi Seong-gye, who had been ordered to attack China, turned his army around and staged a coup.
Yi Seong-gye declared the new name of Korea as "Joseon" in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Hanseong (one of the old names of Seoul). The first 200 years of the Joseon dynasty were marked by peace, and saw great advancements in science and education, as well as the creation of Hangul by Sejong the Great to promote literacy among the common people. The prevailing ideology of the time was Neo-Confucianism, which was epitomized by the seonbi class: nobles who passed up positions of wealth and power to lead lives of study and integrity. Between 1592 and 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched invasions of Korea, but his advance was halted by Korean forces (most notably the Joseon Navy led by Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his renowned "turtle ship") with assistance from Righteous Army militias formed by Korean civilians, and Ming dynasty Chinese troops. Through a series of successful battles of attrition, the Japanese forces were eventually forced to withdraw, and relations between all parties became normalized. However, the Manchus took advantage of Joseon's war-weakened state and invaded in 1627 and 1637, and then went on to conquer the destabilized Ming dynasty. After normalizing relations with the new Qing dynasty, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. Kings Yeongjo and Jeongjo particularly led a new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty during the 18th century. In the 19th century, the royal in-law families gained control of the government, leading to mass corruption and weakening of the state, and severe poverty and peasant rebellions throughout the country. Furthermore, the Joseon government adopted a strict isolationist policy, earning the nickname "the hermit kingdom", but ultimately failed to protect itself against imperialism and was forced to open its borders. After the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, Korea was occupied by Japan (1910–45). At the end of World War II, the Japanese surrendered to Soviet and U.S. forces who occupied the northern and southern halves of Korea, respectively.
Despite the initial plan of a unified Korea in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, escalating Cold War antagonism between the Soviet Union and the United States eventually led to the establishment of separate governments, each with its own ideology, leading to the division of Korea into two political entities in 1948: North Korea and South Korea.
In the South, Syngman Rhee, an opponent of communism, who had been backed and appointed by the United States as head of the provisional government, won the first presidential elections of the newly declared Republic of Korea in May. In the North, a former anti-Japanese guerrilla and communist activist, Kim Il-sung was appointed premier of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in September.
In October the Soviet Union declared Kim Il-sung's government as sovereign over both parts. The UN declared Rhee's government as "a lawful government having effective control and jurisdiction over that part of Korea where the UN Temporary Commission on Korea was able to observe and consult" and the Government "based on elections which was observed by the Temporary Commission" in addition to a statement that "this is the only such government in Korea." Both leaders began an authoritarian repression of their political opponents inside their region, seeking for a unification of Korea under their control. While South Korea's request for military support was denied by the United States, North Korea's military was heavily reinforced by the Soviet Union.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War, the Cold War's first major conflict, which continued until 1953. At the time, the Soviet Union had boycotted the United Nations (UN), thus forfeiting their veto rights. This allowed the UN to intervene in a civil war when it became apparent that the superior North Korean forces would unify the entire country. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea, with the later participation of millions of Chinese troops. After an ebb and flow that saw both sides almost pushed to the brink of extinction, and massive losses among Korean civilians in both the north and the south, the war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the demilitarized zone near the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was ever signed, resulting in the two countries remaining technically at war. Over 1.2 million people died during the Korean War.
In 1960, a student uprising (the "April 19 Revolution") led to the resignation of the autocratic, corrupt President Syngman Rhee. A period of political instability followed, broken by General Park Chung-hee's May 16 coup against the weak and ineffectual government the next year. Park took over as president until his assassination in 1979, overseeing rapid export-led economic growth as well as implementing political repression. Park was heavily criticised as a ruthless military dictator, who in 1972 extended his rule by creating a new constitution, which gave the president sweeping (almost dictatorial) powers and permitted him to run for an unlimited number of six-year terms. However, the Korean economy developed significantly during Park's tenure and the government developed the nationwide expressway system, the Seoul subway system, and laid the foundation for economic development during his 17-year tenure.
The years after Park's assassination were marked again by political turmoil, as the previously suppressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1979 there came the Coup d'état of December Twelfth led by General Chun Doo-hwan. Following the Coup d'état, Chun Doo-hwan planned to rise to power through several measures. On May 17, Chun Doo-hwan forced the Cabinet to expand martial law to the whole nation, which had previously not applied to the island of Jejudo. The expanded martial law closed universities, banned political activities and further curtailed the press. Chun's assumption of the presidency in the events of May 17, triggered nationwide protests demanding democracy, in particular in the city of Gwangju, to which Chun sent special forces to violently suppress the Gwangju Democratization Movement.
Chun subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee and took the presidency according to his political plan. Chun and his government held South Korea under a despotic rule until 1987, when a Seoul National University student, Park Jong-chul, was tortured to death. On June 10, the Catholic Priests Association for Justice revealed the incident, igniting the June Democracy Movement around the country. Eventually, Chun's party, the Democratic Justice Party, and its leader, Roh Tae-woo announced the 6.29 Declaration, which included the direct election of the president. Roh went on to win the election by a narrow margin against the two main opposition leaders, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Young-Sam.
In 1988, Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. It became a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996. It was adversely affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. However, the country recovered and continued its economic growth, albeit at a slower pace.
Following an election in 1997, Kim Dae-jung was sworn in as the eight president of South Korea, on February 25, 1998.
In June 2000, as part of president Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement, a North–South summit took place in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Later that year, Kim received the Nobel Peace Prize "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular". However, because of discontent among the population for fruitless approaches to the North under the previous administrations and, amid North Korean provocations, a conservative government was elected in 2007 led by President Lee Myung-bak, former mayor of Seoul. More recently, Park Geun-hye won the South Korean presidential election, 2012. Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan jointly co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. However, South Korean and Japanese relations later soured because of conflicting claims of sovereignty over the Liancourt Rocks, in what became known as the Liancourt Rocks dispute.
In 2016, President Park Geun-hye's administration was accused of corruption, bribery, and influence-peddling for the involvement of Choi Soon-sil in state affairs. Soon-sil was officially charged in November 2016. Following the scandal, there has been a series of massive demonstrations that started in the first week of November 2016. On December 9, the National Assembly voted to impeach Park, suspending her from office. As a result, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn became the acting President. On March 10, 2017, the Constitutional Court of Korea voted to remove President Park from office immediately, ending her tenure as president.
South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 1,100 km (680 mi) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Sea of Japan to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Strait and the East China Sea.
The country, including all its islands, lies between latitudes 33° and 39°N, and longitudes 124° and 130°E. Its total area is 100,032 square kilometres (38,622.57 sq mi).
South Korea can be divided into four general regions: an eastern region of high mountain ranges and narrow coastal plains; a western region of broad coastal plains, river basins, and rolling hills; a southwestern region of mountains and valleys; and a southeastern region dominated by the broad basin of the Nakdong River.
South Korea's terrain is mostly mountainous, most of which is not arable. Lowlands, located primarily in the west and southeast, make up only 30% of the total land area.
About three thousand islands, mostly small and uninhabited, lie off the western and southern coasts of South Korea. Jeju-do is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) off the southern coast of South Korea. It is the country's largest island, with an area of 1,845 square kilometres (712 square miles). Jeju is also the site of South Korea's highest point: Hallasan, an extinct volcano, reaches 1,950 metres (6,400 feet) above sea level. The easternmost islands of South Korea include Ulleungdo and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima), while Marado and Socotra Rock are the southernmost islands of South Korea.
South Korea has 20 national parks and popular nature places like the Boseong Tea Fields, Suncheon Bay Ecological Park, and the first national park of Jirisan.
South Korea tends to have a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be extremely cold with the minimum temperature dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F) in the inland region of the country: in Seoul, the average January temperature range is −7 to 1 °C (19 to 34 °F), and the average August temperature range is 22 to 30 °C (72 to 86 °F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and humid, with temperatures exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) in most parts of the country. South Korea has four distinct seasons; spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring usually lasts from late March to early May, summer from mid-May to early September, autumn from mid-September to early November, and winter from mid-November to mid-March.
Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months of June through September. The southern coast is subject to late summer typhoons that bring strong winds, heavy rains and sometime floods. The average annual precipitation varies from 1,370 millimetres (54 in) in Seoul to 1,470 millimetres (58 in) in Busan.
During the first 20 years of South Korea's growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment. Unchecked industrialization and urban development have resulted in deforestation and the ongoing destruction of wetlands such as the Songdo Tidal Flat. However, there have been recent efforts to balance these problems, including a government run $84 billion five-year green growth project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology.
The green-based economic strategy is a comprehensive overhaul of South Korea's economy, utilizing nearly two percent of the national GDP. The greening initiative includes such efforts as a nationwide bike network, solar and wind energy, lowering oil dependent vehicles, backing daylight savings and extensive usage of environmentally friendly technologies such as LEDs in electronics and lighting. The country – already the world's most wired – plans to build a nationwide next-generation network that will be 10 times faster than broadband facilities, in order to reduce energy usage.
The renewable portfolio standard program with renewable energy certificates runs from 2012 to 2022. Quota systems favor large, vertically integrated generators and multinational electric utilities, if only because certificates are generally denominated in units of one megawatt-hour. They are also more difficult to design and implement than a Feed-in tariff. Around 350 residential micro combined heat and power units were installed in 2012.
Seoul's tap water recently became safe to drink, with city officials branding it "Arisu" in a bid to convince the public. Efforts have also been made with afforestation projects. Another multibillion-dollar project was the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, a stream running through downtown Seoul that had earlier been paved over by a motorway. One major challenge is air quality, with acid rain, sulfur oxides, and annual yellow dust storms being particular problems. It is acknowledged that many of these difficulties are a result of South Korea's proximity to China, which is a major air polluter.
South Korea is a member of the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity Treaty, Kyoto Protocol (forming the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), regarding UNFCCC, with Mexico and Switzerland), Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (not into force), Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling.
Under its current constitution the state is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Republic of South Korea. Like many democratic states, South Korea has a government divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels. South Korea is a constitutional democracy.
The South Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. This document has been revised several times since its first promulgation in 1948 at independence. However, it has retained many broad characteristics and with the exception of the short-lived Second Republic of South Korea, the country has always had a presidential system with an independent chief executive. The first direct election was also held in 1948. Although South Korea experienced a series of military dictatorships from the 1960s up until the 1980s, it has since developed into a successful liberal democracy. Today, the CIA World Factbook describes South Korea's democracy as a "fully functioning modern democracy". South Korea is ranked 37th on the Corruption Perceptions Index, with moderate control on corruption.
Due to its development and capabilities, political scientists have ranked it among Asia-Pacific's regional powers.
The major administrative divisions in South Korea are eight provinces, one special self-governing province, six metropolitan cities (self-governing cities that are not part of any province), one special city and one metropolitan autonomous city.
a Revised Romanisation; b See Names of Seoul; c June As of 2016.
In April 2016, South Korea's population was estimated to be around 50.8 million by National Statistical Office, with continuing decline of working age population and total fertility rate. The country is noted for its population density, which was an estimated 505 per square kilometer in 2015, more than 10 times the global average. Most South Koreans live in urban areas, because of rapid migration from the countryside during the country's quick economic expansion in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The capital city of Seoul is also the country's largest city and chief industrial center. According to the 2005 census, Seoul had a population of 10 million inhabitants. The Seoul National Capital Area has 24.5 million inhabitants (about half of South Korea's entire population) making it the world's second largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Busan (3.5 million), Incheon (2.5 million), Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.4 million), Gwangju (1.4 million) and Ulsan (1.1 million).
The population has also been shaped by international migration. After World War II and the division of the Korean Peninsula, about four million people from North Korea crossed the border to South Korea. This trend of net entry reversed over the next 40 years because of emigration, especially to the United States and Canada. South Korea's total population in 1955 was 21.5 million, and has more than doubled, to 50 million, by 2010.
South Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in the world, with more than 99% of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity.
The percentage of foreign nationals has been growing rapidly. As of 2009, South Korea had 1,106,884 foreign residents, 2.7% of the population; however, more than half of them are ethnic Koreans with a foreign citizenship. For example, migrants from China (PRC) make up 56.5% of foreign nationals, but approximately 70% of the Chinese citizens in Korea are Joseonjok (조선족 in Korean), PRC citizens of Korean ethnicity. Regardless of the ethnicity, there are 28,500 US military personnel serving in South Korea, most serving a one-year unaccompanied tour (though approximately 10% serve longer tours accompanied by family), according to the Korea National Statistical Office. In addition, about 43,000 English teachers from English-speaking countries reside temporarily in Korea. Currently, South Korea has one of the highest rates of growth of foreign born population, with about 30,000 foreign born residents obtaining South Korean citizenship every year since 2010.
South Korea's birthrate was the world's lowest in 2009. If this continues, its population is expected to decrease by 13% to 42.3 million in 2050. South Korea's annual birthrate is approximately 9 births per 1000 people. However, the birthrate has increased by 5.7% in 2010 and Korea no longer has the world's lowest birthrate. According to a 2011 report from The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's total fertility rate (1.23 children born per woman) is higher than those of Taiwan (1.15) and Japan (1.21). The average life expectancy in 2008 was 79.10 years, (which was 34th in the world) but by 2015 it had increased to around 81. South Korea has the steepest decline in working age population of the OECD nations. In 2015, National Statistical Office estimated that the population of the country will have reached its peak by 2035.