Often referred to as the “Land of
the Morning Calm,” Korea has a population of 49.78 million
(2011) and a total land area of 100,033 ㎢ (2010). Located
at a major crossroads of Northeast Asia, it has also achieved
the “Miracle of the Han River.” As early as the 1960s,
when the country's five-year economic development plan was
first implemented, the Korean economy has relentlessly shown
signs of exponential growth. From 1970 to 2005, the country's
GNI surged from US$8.2 billion to a staggering US$843.9
billion. The 1997 East Asian foreign currency crisis was
only a temporary set-back for the Korean economy. The GNI
stagnated at US$ 352.1 billion in 1998 but soon began to advance
again, soaring to US$ 1,014.6 billion by 2010.
Years of rapid economic development propelled the country into becoming the world's 12th largest trading partner. Korea's industrial base shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and is now shifting to services. A global force in a number of significant industries, including automobiles, petrochemicals, electronics, shipbuilding, textiles, and steel, Korea’s GDP rose 5.0% in 2007 and 2.5% in 2008. Korea has a GDP of US$ 1,014.3 billion (as of 2010), ranking the nation 15th in the world.
Since 2004, Korean-made semi-conductors, automobiles,
and wireless telecom devices have accounted for over 30%
of the country's total trade volume. Exports of IT products
have risen every year since 1998 and reached US$ 126.4 trillion
worth of exports in 2010. Major IT exports include memory
chips, mobile phones, LCD monitors, PCs, and satellite broadcasting
receivers. Korea’s semi-conductor industry, in particular,
has achieved tremendous growth over the past two decades
and is the third largest in the world.
The system of government in Korea is based on a system of checks and balances between the executive branch, the legislature, and the judiciary. The president is elected directly for a single five-year-term. South Korea’s 17th president, Lee Myung-Bak, was sworn in to office on February 25, 2008. Overcoming many obstacles throughout his youth, Lee garnered enormous success in both his business and political career. Shortly after joining Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd, he soon earned the title of CEO and led the company through years of continued prosperity. From 2002 to 2006, he was successively appointed the governor of Seoul, and on December 19, 2007, won the presidential bid with an unprecedented 48.7% of the vote.