President: Park Geun-hye (2013)
Prime Minister: Hwang Kyo-ahn (2015)
Land area: 37,421 sq mi (96,920 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 49,039,986 (growth rate: 0.16%); birth rate: 8.26/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.93/1000; life expectancy: 79.8
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Seoul, 9.736 million
Other large cities: Busan (Pusan) 3.372 million; Incheon (Inch'on) 2.622 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.447 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.538 million; Gwangju (Kwangju) 1.503 million (2011).
Monetary unit: won
Slightly larger than Indiana, South Korea lies below the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula. It is mountainous in the east; in the west and south are many harbors on the mainland and offshore islands.
South Korea came into being after World War II, the result of a 1945 agreement reached by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference, making the 38th parallel the boundary between a northern zone of the Korean peninsula to be occupied by the USSR and southern zone to be controlled by U.S. forces. (For details, see Korea, North. )
Elections were held in the U.S. zone in 1948 for a national assembly, which adopted a republican constitution and elected Syngman Rhee as the nation's president. The new republic was proclaimed on Aug. 15 and was recognized as the legal government of Korea by the UN on Dec. 12, 1948.