South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea is a sovereign state located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Its neighbors are the People’s Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north and the East China Sea and the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the south. Its capital, and largest city, is Seoul. The total population is approximately 48 million, of whom 10 million live in Seoul. With 48 million people inhabiting an area roughly the size of the US state of Indiana or the country Portugal. South Korea has one of the world's highest population densities. Major population centers are located in the northwest, southeast, and in the plains south of the Seoul-Incheon area.
South Korea lies in a temperate climate with predominantly mountainous terrain. Hills and mountains with deep, narrow valleys dominate the physically rugged landscape. More than 70 percent of the land is forested with only 20 percent suitable for cultivation. The plains along the western and southern coasts are nearly all cultivated.
Facts & Figures
Official Name: Republic of Korea
Capital City: Seoul
Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Head of Government: Prime Minister Chung Un-Chan
Official Language: Korean
Area: 99,222 sq. km. / 38,022 sq. mi.
Population: 48.8 million
Religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism
Currency: Won (W)
Number of Time Zones: 1 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus 9 hrs; Eastern Standard Time (EST) plus 14 hrs.
Korea does not operate daylight saving time.
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Country Domain: .kr
Country Tel Code: 82
Map of South Korea; Geoje Island is located of the south east coast of the mainland.
Geoje Island or Geojedo in Korean is the second largest island in Korea and lies south-east of the coast of Busan. It is part of the Hallyeo National Marine Park and has steep mountains and a rugged, 387 km long coastline. It covers an area of 400.7 pyeong or 399 Km2.The park consist in total 10 inhabited and 50 uninhabited islands. The island is well known for its pebble stone beaches, making it a famous tourist spot for Koreans and foreigners alike.
Geoje Island is approximately a 4,5 hour’s drive from Seoul and a 3 hrs ferry trip to Japan. The island is connected to the mainland via Geoje Grand Bridge in Tongyeong (Highway nr. 14) and new bridge connecting Geoje directly with Busan, replacing the car ferries previously needed to make this trip.
Geoje Island houses two of Korea’s biggest shipbuilding companies, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine
Engineering (DSM) and Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI). They build 30% of the world’s container ships. DSME is located near the town of Okpo and SHI near Gohyeon (or Geoje City).
Okpo is located on the eastern coast and Gohyeon on the western coast – travel time between the two towns is approximately 20 to 30 minutes by car. Most facilities are located in these two towns, with several tourist spots and beaches located all over the island.
Busan, formerly spelled Pusan is South Korea's second city after Seoul, with a population of around 4 million. Once a small fishing village, it is now the largest port city in South Korea and the fifth largest port in the world. The city is located on the southeastern most tip of the Korean peninsula and faces the Korea Strait. Travel time by high speed train from Seoul is approximately 3 hours and by plane you can reach the city in an hour. The airport is served by both national as international flights.
Busan is home to the world's largest department store, the Shinsegae Centum City and is pursuing a large number of multi-skyscraper projects, including the 110-floor, 510m-supertall Lotte Super Tower, which is slated to become the world's third tallest building in 2013, after Burj Khalifa in Dubai and 1 World Trade Center in New York City. Because of its strong economic base, the city also boasts 26 universities and colleges. Industry and commerce dominate the city center, but nearby are a number of attractive beaches and sightseeing areas.
South Korea has a humid continental/subtropical climate. Temperate climate prevails throughout the country, with distinct changes of season, high humidity seems to make the temperature extremes more dramatic. It is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with a short rainy season called jangma (장마) in summer. Minimum temperature can drop below −20 °C in the inland region of the country in winter. Typhoons are common.
As Geoje Island is located off the south coast of Korea it is considered to lie within the subtropical zone. Although Korea has 4 seasons, the climate on Geoje Island tends to be a lot milder then on mainland Korea.
Warm weather starts as early as April and lasts until the end of October with temperatures between 16 and 25 degrees. Spring is beautiful when the cherry and other blossoms are out and autumn has a charm of its own with all the trees turning color.
Winters are cold and dry with high winds, but much milder than other parts of Korea except Jeju-do and several islands of the southern coast. The temperature rarely drops below 10 degrees during the daytime, and snow is very rare on Geoje Island. The atmosphere however is very dry and a lot of people use humidifiers
during the winter.
Nearly half of the annual rainfall occurs during the monsoon season in July and August. In July there is a rainy season of about two weeks which can bring heavy rains. After the rainy season it warms up and August is very hot and humid with temperatures between 25 and 36 degrees and humidity between 60 – 80 %. Most apartments have air conditioning but mould can be a problem when residents are away during the summer months. A lot of people have little boxes (called hippos for their hippo image on them) in their cupboards to absorb excess damp. Late summer and early autumn, August and September, are generally hot and humid and the island may experience typhoons at that time.
An increase in economic prosperity has increased the expatriate presence. Visitors will find South Koreans careful to be modest and formal among strangers, but comfortable singing, laughing, and showing emotion among close friends and family. Overall in Korea, in terms of the foreign nationals, although small, the percentage of expatriates has been increasing. As of 2009, South Korea had 1,106,884 foreign residents. This number covers approximately 2 percent of the entire population of South Korea; however, more than half of the foreign nationals have Korean ethnicity with a foreign citizenship. The Korea National Statistical Office counts that there are 28,500 US military personnel currently serving in South Korea. In addition, about 43,000 English teachers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa temporarily reside in Korea.
On Geoje Island, there is quite a large and active expat community with most expats working on one of the two shipyards. Geoje is therefore heavily influenced by the western clients of SHI and DMSE. Okpo is most westernized with many English speaking businesses. Also, the Geoje Foreign Residents Association in based there, a friendly and helpful organization, who organizes all kinds of events. For more information on the GFRA, please refer to our Inside Guide.
The official language, Korean, is based on the native alphabet named ‘Hangul’. It is derived from the Ural-
Altaic family of languages, which includes Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian, and Mongolian. It is distinct from
Japanese and Chinese, but centuries of close contact with China has resulted in the absorption of a large number of Chinese words. There are also similarities with Japanese grammar.
The language has been spoken for 5,000 years, but the alphabet was not invented until 1446. The 550-yearold Hangul alphabet has no similarity to Chinese characters, but is often used in conjunction with Chinese
English is taught in most middle schools and high schools, for the most part they focus on teaching grammar and vocabulary. Since Koreans have difficulty pronouncing words in English they will hesitate to converse for fear of making mistakes when speaking, so it is not widely spoken. Because Japanese was taught during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, most South Korean adults born before 1935 speak Japanese.
Many people find it easy to learn the Korean alphabet, although fluency in Korean language is more difficult to learn. It is not entirely necessary to know Korean to do business or live in Korea, although a grasp of basic terms will be helpful. In Korea, like most other countries, a bit of vocabulary and a small amount of phrases will be appreciated and help you break the ice.
In South Korea, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is no state religion. Main religions in South Korea are Christianity and Buddhism, although many people express no religious preference.
There are 2,500 active Buddhist temples in Korea, and many churches; it is said that Seoul to have more Presbyterians than any U.S. city.
Christianity is South Korea's largest religion, accounting for more than half of all South Korean religious adherents. There are approximately 15 million Christians in South Korea today, with almost two-thirds of Christians belonging to Protestant churches, while about 35% belong to the Catholic Church.
Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the year 372. According to the national census as of 2005, South Korea has over 10.7 million Buddhists. Today, about 90% of Korean Buddhists belong to Jogye Order.
Confucian tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributions by Buddhism, Taoism, and Korean Shamanism. Throughout Korean history and culture, the influence of traditional beliefs of Korean Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have remained an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture; all these traditions have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong Westernization from Christian missionary conversions in South Korea.
Nowadays only about three percent of modern Koreans are still strict followers of Confucius. Confucianism is pervasive though in all walks of Korean life, ordering social behavior and stressing righteousness and family relationships, especially those of father and son.
Koreans like to sing, show their emotions and laugh often with family and friends, but are careful with strangers. Increasingly focused on preserving their country's traditional culture, they celebrate many festivals and create other incentives for proliferating their rich and colorful heritage. The rich Korean folk art belies a sense of humor and whimsy, alongside the portrayal of a difficult life. Often at parties and social events, the Korean folk songs are sung. They are sad and melancholy melodies which tell fateful stories.
Visitors will find South Koreans careful to be modest and formal among strangers, but comfortable singing,laughing, and showing emotion among close friends and family.
Many years of domination, first by China, then by Japan, have shaped the national personality. Relations between South Korea and China and Japan are tentative, although the high level of Japanese investment is beginning to temper old resentments. Korean sensitivity is obvious in Korean politicians' efforts to collect compensation for the Korean women who were forced to be "comfort women" for Japanese troops more than 50 years ago.
Strongly influenced by ancient Confucianism, Koreans display a modest demeanor of ritualistic courtesy and formality. Modesty is highly regarded and compliments and honors are denied, however graciously. Confucian culture puts the family above everything else. Most families still observe traditional lifestyles, with the women working at home cooking, cleaning and providing for the care of their families, while the men work outside the
home. Based on Confucian tradition, social attitudes translate into a vertical organization which works from the top down, loyalty between employer and employee, and an indirect, non-confrontational style
In Asia, where everybody works hard, South Koreans work harder than anybody. Although they savor family and friends, they are also tough, disciplined businessmen. The Koreans are generally willing to work long, hard hours, typified by the average factory worker's 54-hour work week. Personal success is valued and admired in South Korea, but a measured, careful and respectful means to that end are equally revered. Koreans are always courteous and work hard to achieve their goals. Among the most well educated people in the world, they have developed a highly efficient and profitable business structure.
The business structure, as well as the social structure, is vertical. Relationships are between superior and subordinate, and loyalty to that superior and to the company are virtues without equal. This means that decision-making filters down from the top of the organization and decisions, however minor, are not made by the individual but by the group. Once made, decisions are upheld by the group, sharing responsibility.
South Koreans tend to be non-confrontational, working more toward conciliation and compromise in the workplace. For all the pressure to succeed, Koreans work hard to appear good-natured and friendly. They hate to say "no" or to be the bearer of bad news. Foreigners conducting business with Korean partners may be slow to realize a problem exists because the Koreans are embarrassed to admit obstacles have appeared.
Although Confucianism does not provide for relationships with "outsiders," and respect and loyalty are not required to be paid to persons not tied to the religion, foreigners are generally welcomed in South Korea and regarded as good business partners. Once a foreigner has become a member of a mutual group such as a club, a company, or a business community, he or she will be welcomed and treated in the manner appropriate to his or her position.
Although there have been a number of women in high level positions in recent Presidential administrations, women, in general, do not hold positions of authority in business. When addressing a group, references should be made to "Gentlemen and Ladies", as men take precedence in Korea.
Age is another factor which influences Koreans' attitudes. All young or young-looking executives may encounter problems when meeting with senior Korean officials or executives. The assumption will be that your company is not taking this deal seriously since it didn't bother to send a "senior" executive. An obviously senior title or an introduction assuring your Korean counterpart that you have decision-making authority can help with this problem.
Some cultural sensitivities:
• Koreans list their family name first, then their given name, which usually consists of two syllables
• Korean women do not change their family names after marriage
• Always remove your shoes before entering a Korean home
• Sharing food from one bowl is thought to make relationships closer
• Koreans love light colors. Never use red ink when writing a person’s name. Red is only used for a
• Patting children on the back or on the head expresses warm feelings
• The Korean language uses honorific and makes a distinction between formal and causal expressions
• Blowing one’s nose in front of others is considered bad manners
• Formal expressions usually end with “Yo” and are used towards elders or unfamiliar people. Informal expressions are used between friends
• Throughout its long history, Korea has respected the elderly. It’s very common in Korea to see younger people give their seats to older people on the bus. When you give something to, or receive something from, someone older, you should use two hands.
• While talking with someone older, it is considered very rude to look directly at them.