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Republic of Korea
Geography, climate and population
The Republic of Korea is located in the semi-tropical area along the east coast of the Asian landmass. It is bounded by the Yellow Sea in the west, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, the Sea of Japan in the east, and is separated from Japan by the Korea Strait to the southeast and south. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into nine provinces and seven metropolitan cities. The capital is Seoul.
The country has a total land area of 99 900 km2 and some 65 percent is mountainous, especially along the east coast with the highest point Halla-san at 1 950 m above sea level. The other main mountains are the Taebaek range, which cross the country from north to south with their highest point at Mount Sorak (1 708 m), and the Sobaek range running from the southwest to the northeast, of which the highest point is Chiri mountain (1 915 m). The plains are mainly located along the west and south coasts.
The cultivable area is relatively small and is largely spread along the southwest coast. Most of it has already been reclaimed and is intensively cultivated. In 2009, the total cultivated area was about 1 796 000 ha, of which 1 595 000 ha consisted of annual crops and 201 000 ha of permanent crops (Table 1).
The country’s climate is determined by its latitude and geography, and there are four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Winter is bitterly cold and is influenced primarily by cold Siberian fronts. Summer is hot and humid owing to the maritime Pacific high. The transitional seasons, spring and autumn are sunny and generally dry. Wind and precipitation are largely affected by the surrounding Pacific Ocean in the south and the Eurasian landmass in the north.
The mean annual rainfall is 1 274 mm, of which about 70 percent is concentrated during the summer months from June to September. The rainfall is evenly distributed over the country, with 1 300 mm in Seoul in the north, 1 100 mm in Taegu in the centre, and 1 400 mm in Pusan in the south. Typhoons accompanied by heavy rainfall during summer or early autumn often cause severe crop damage, as do the droughts before the beginning of the summer monsoon.
The mean monthly temperature varies from below freezing in winter to over 25 °C in summer. Frost-free days extend from around the end of April until mid-October, varying from 175 days a year in the north to 220 days in the south. Double cropping is practiced in the south.
The total population in 2009 was about 48.0 million inhabitants, of which around 17 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). With 480 inhabitants/km2, the Republic of Korea is amongst the countries with the highest population density. The capital, Seoul, has the highest population density, approaching 20 000 inhabitants/km2 and the lowest density is in Cheju province with less than 284 inhabitants/km2. The annual demographic growth for the period 1999-2009 was around 0.5 percent.
In 2008, access to improved drinking water sources reached 98 percent (100 and 88 percent for the urban and rural population respectively).