Cruising to South Korea


Korea was an independent kingdom for much of the past millennium. Following its victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Japan occupied Korea; five years later it formally annexed the entire peninsula. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union.

An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Yo'ng-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Tae-chung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il.


Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Geographic coordinates: 37 00 N, 127 30 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 98,480 sq km


2,413 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
Contiguous zone: 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Continental shelf: not specified


Temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter


Mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
Highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m


Since the early 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is equal to the lesser economies of the EU.

This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector.

GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, then recovered 9.5% in 1999 and 8.5% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms had stalled. Led by consumer spending and exports, growth in 2002 was an impressive 7%, despite anemic global growth. Between 2003 and 2005, growth moderated to about 4%.

A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. In 2005, the government proposed labor reform legislation and a corporate pension scheme to help make the labor market more flexible, and new real estate policies to cool property speculation. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, an export surplus, and fairly equal distribution of income characterize this solid economy.


Airports: 108 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 70
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 38
Heliports: 537 (2005)
Pipelines: gas 1,433 km; refined products 827 km (2004)
Railways: total: 3,472 km
Roadways: total: 97,252 km


1,608 km (most navigable only by small craft) (2006)

Merchant marine

Total: 650 ships (1000 GRT or over) 7,992,664 GRT/12,730,954 DWT
By type: bulk carrier 151, cargo 202, chemical tanker 87, container 79, liquefied gas 20, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 22, petroleum tanker 53, refrigerated cargo 18, roll on/roll off 7, specialized tanker 3, vehicle carrier 3
Foreign-owned: 15 (France 12, Singapore 1, UK 2)
Registered in other countries: 362 (Belize 5, Cambodia 18, China 3, Cyprus 1, Georgia 1, Honduras 6, Hong Kong 12, Indonesia 1, North Korea 1, Malta 5, Mongolia 1, Panama 285, Singapore 17, Thailand 1, Turkey 1, unknown 4) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Inch'on, Masan, P'ohang, Pusan, Ulsan


Military Demarcation Line within the 4-km wide Demilitarized Zone has separated North from South Korea since 1953; periodic maritime disputes with North Korea over the Northern Limit Line; South Korea and Japan claim Liancourt Rocks (Tok-do/Take-shima), occupied by South Korea since 1954    

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Brunei - Burma - Cambodia - China - East Timor - Hong Kong - Indonesia - Japan - Macau - Malaysia - North Korea -Philippines - Russia - Singapore - South Korea - Taiwan - Thailand - Vietnam

Further Reading

Back to "vacations"