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South Korea 101 Print South Korea 101

Please note: This archive page is related to a former project of the Stanley Foundation. Therefore, some of the material may be outdated and many of the links may no longer work. This page was last updated in late 2009. Information about current Stanley Foundation efforts can be found here.


South Korea, formally known as the Republic of Korea, is enjoying one of the fastest rates of prolonged economic growth in modern history.  It is on track to become the ninth-largest economy and third-wealthiest nation in the world by 2025. This country of 49 million people is already one of the most scientifically and technologically advanced. More than 90 percent of all homes are connected to high-speed broadband Internet, making South Korea the most wired nation on the planet.


Led by large multinational corporations such as Hyundai, Samsung, and LG, it has become a global leader in shipbuilding, electronics, automobile manufacturing, robotics, and biotechnology.

Some have labeled this economic achievement a “miracle,” given the unstable security situation that South Korea has faced since its founding amid the division of the Korean peninsula in 1948. More than fifty years after the Korean War, which decimated South Korea’s capital Seoul, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) remains the most heavily fortified border in the world. Reunification has proven elusive.

Newly elected President Lee Myung-bak has promised continued prosperity. The South Korean government, however, acknowledges that its country’s future and economic stability is intimately connected to the question of reunification and how it might be achieved.  A sudden collapse of the communist North’s regime would be disastrous for South Korea. The success of cross-border partnerships aimed at improving the impoverished North’s economy is considered key to a successful, gradual reunification and regional stability.


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Sources: South Korean government Web site, The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer, CIA Fact Book, http//, International Herald Tribune, and others.

This page is part of Rising Powers: The New Global Reality, a project from the Stanley Foundation.

The Stanley Foundation is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The global order is changing. The 21st Century will be marked by many competing sources of global power. Across politics, economics, culture, military strength and more, a new group of countries have growing influence over the future of the world:



South Africa
European Union

South Korea


Other Countries

Big issues are also playing a cross-cutting role in this changing global order:


Nuclear Nonproliferation
Nonstate Actors

Global/Regional Systems

And this changing global order has implications for the United States.

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