South Korea - Overview
Buddhism 43.0%, Christianity 34.5%, Catholic 20.6%, Others 1.9%.
To make a call from: 001, 002, 008, 00365, 00700
To make a call to: +82
Since 2012, South Korea has been suffering from the economic slowdown of its two main trading partners, China and the United States. President Park Geun-hye, who was elected in 2012, began his five-year term by announcing more economic democracy, in other words a rebalancing of the economy which is too dependent on the so-called chaebol (conglomerates) in favour of SMEs, and to promote creative economy based on services nad innovation. The government is pursuing a policy favourable to business and economic growth through a combination of tax incentives and a favourable monetary policy. Both the state and individual households are having to deal with the increasingly worrying issue of rising debt. The 2014 budget, which increased by 2% compared to 2013, focuses its spending on welfare, healthcare and employment, as well as the defense sector. The government does not expect the deficit to change (1.8% of the GDP) and a rising state debt which now represents 36.4% of the GDP. The Central Bank is trying to keep prices stable while also stimulating the economy. The county also needs to deal with the structural problems of an underdeveloped financial market, population aging, and the country's declining competitiveness as the Chinese economy has been moving more upmarket.
The revenue per capita in South Korea increased from USD 100 in 1963 to almost USD 20,000 today. Although unemployment rate has been decreasing, reaching its minimum since 2002, the number of irregular workers is very high and social inequalities are deepening.
The country's main sectors of activity are textile, the steel industry, car manufacturing, shipbuilding and electronics. South Korea is the largest producer of semiconductors in the world. The manufacturing sector represents about 40% of the GNP, while the tertiary sector accounts for almost 60%.
Foreign trade overview
The trade balance of the country presents a high surplus and should remain so in the coming years. In 2013, the surplus reached a record level of more than 44 billion USD because of a rise in exports and a decline in imports. In 2014, the surplus should diminish due to the recovery of imports and a slower growth of exports. The main trade partners of the country are China, Japan, the European Union and the United States.
South Korea's appeal in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) is the result of the country's fast economic development and the specialization of its industry in new information and communication technologies. However, the lack of general transparency in regulations is a major concern to foreign investors.