The Country (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korea, an East Asian country, is located on a peninsula divided by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates South Korea from North Korea. As of 2004, South Korea’s economy had attained a value of $1 trillion. In 2007, South Korea’s economy was the third largest in Asia and the thirteenth largest globally.
South Korea’s landscape is characterized mostly by mountains, plains, and valleys, with the Han, Nakdong, Yeongsan, and Geum rivers representing main interior water resources. South Korea includes approximately three thousand islands of varying sizes and distances from the peninsula. Pusan, the country’s biggest port, accesses the Korea Strait on South Korea’s southern coast, and the port at Inch’ŏn on South Korea’s western coast is next to the Yellow Sea. The country is divided into nine provinces and seven metropolitan cities. The DMZ contains diverse natural resources, which are protected from human appropriation.
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Coal (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korean government officials encourage extraction of indigenous coal resources in an attempt to decrease imports of oil and other fuels to generate energy. Among the world’s top-five oil importers, South Korea relied on oil for 50 percent of its energy needs in the early twenty-first century and also purchased large amounts of natural gas. Coal provides almost one-fourth of South Korea’s energy resources. South Korean coal deposits, mostly in the form of anthracite, consist of 1.4 billion metric tons, with less than one-third of that reserve considered accessible for extraction. Korean coalfields occur in provinces stretching from the southwestern to the northeastern regions of the country. Sites that produced significant amounts of coal include fields at Mungyeong, Danyang, Samcheok, Honam, Boeun, and Yeongweol. Additional places with coal deposits are Gimpo, Yeoncheon, and Chungnam.
South Korea’s coal industry has functioned since the 1920’s, with elevated oil prices in the 1970’s resulting in its highest production rates in the twentieth century. Approximately 350 mines produced 24 million tons annually until the late 1980’s, when lower oil prices, higher incomes, and consumers’ preferences for natural gas and clean energy sources resulted in the South Korean government’s demanding the closure of most mines. The field at Samcheok continued to supply coal in the 1990’s despite economic fluctuations.
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Tungsten (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The South Korean tungsten deposit at Sangdong in Kangwŏn Province provided approximately 90 percent of the country’s tungsten for domestic and export uses. Tungsten is a useful industrial metal, and aerospace technology often incorporates tungsten because it is not altered in extreme heat situations. Tungsten is found in deposits of several compounds such as wolframite and scheelite, located in the mountainous regions of South Korea.
Operating since 1947, the Sangdong mine has supplied a large percentage of tungsten available to international markets. The Chongyang mine is another source of South Korean tungsten. Both mines also extract molybdenum. South Korean manufacturers use tungsten for electronic components such as lightbulb filaments, wires, and tubes in appliances and machines and mix tungsten with carbide to create effective cutting devices and industrial tools. Jewelry, particularly wedding bands, is often crafted from tungsten because of the metal’s durability.
South Korea led world exports of tungsten until China began exporting large quantities of that metal in 1993, resulting in prices dropping. Unable to profit from tungsten, South Korea ceased extracting ore containing tungsten in the early 1990’s. In 2006, the Sangdong mine resumed operations when it was bought by the Canadian company Oriental Minerals. The government’s Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) estimated reserves totaled 85,700 metric...
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Molybdenum (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Molybdenum is a crucial resource incorporated in stainless steel manufacture at steel mills. South Korea, ranking fifth in global steel production in 2007, sought to extract indigenous sources of molybdenum in an attempt to stop importing that resource from rival molybdenum producers Chile and China, which have the largest molybdenum deposits internationally. China stated it would limit exports and licenses regulating that market, intensifying South Korean efforts to mine molybdenum domestically. South Korean government officials also envisioned exporting surplus molybdenum to steel mills in Taiwan, Japan, and other countries to generate income as the value of that resource rose.
In 2006, KORES and KTC Korea Company, which trades metals, cooperated to finance and build South Korea’s initial smelter for molybdenum at Yeosu. That facility, which began operating the following year, was capable of processing 6,000 metric tons of molybdenum annually. At that time, South Korea’s molybdenum smelter was the seventh biggest internationally. The Yeosu smelter provided 35 percent of molybdenum needed by South Korean steel mills.
South Korea’s molybdenum mine at Uljin, containing approximately 3.7 million metric tons of molybdenum, shipped 670 tons of that resource yearly to the Yeosu smelter with plans to increase the amount of ore extracted so production could double. KORES stated that representatives would seek additional...
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Minerals (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korea lost direct access to approximately 90 percent of the peninsula’s mineral resources when the 1953 armistice divided the peninsula at the 38th Parallel after the Korean War. Prior to division, most mining and industrial activity had occurred in the northern half of the peninsula, where the majority of Korean natural resources were located. Geologists have stated that there are approximately 220 mineral types in North Korea, ranging from coal to uranium, which have reserves worth $2 trillion. North Korean mineral resources included 2.7 billion metric tons of iron ore, 1.08 million metric tons of nickel, and 907 metric tons of gold, almost twenty-five times greater than South Korean mineral resources. South Korea spent $13 billion in 2006 importing minerals to fulfill manufacturers’ needs.
Despite political differences, officials from North and South Korea discussed the possibility of South Korea providing North Korea with money if South Koreans could invest in North Korean mines to acquire magnesite, zinc, and other specified mineral deposits. North Korea did not have sufficient mining expertise and technological devices to extract those resources. In the early twenty-first century, the Kaesong Industrial Park was built north of the DMZ. South Korean businesses invested in manufacturing at that facility’s factories. Industrial representatives from both countries met several times at P’yŏngyang, North Korea,...
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Graphite (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korean miners extract approximately 2 million metric tons annually from graphite deposits south of the DMZ, including seams in the Kyongsang district. This resource enables South Korea to be the top producer of graphite in the world. Because this graphite has minimal carbon, South Korea sells most of it to Japanese foundries instead of supplying it to domestic manufacturers. Seeking better-quality graphite sources, South Korean representatives secured agreements with North Korean officials regarding graphite deposits above the 38th parallel.
In 2003, KORES contracted for a 50 percent share with the North Korean Kwangmyung Trading Company, investing $5.77 million and supplying equipment to operate a $10.2 million graphite-processing plant near the Jeongchon mine in South Hwanghae Province, which held 5.67 million metric tons of graphite ore and could produce 2,721 metric tons yearly. South Korea’s half of that amount would fulfill 20 percent of the country’s domestic needs for graphite over a fifteen-year period.
The South Hwanghae factory started producing graphite in 2007. In November, 2007, North Korean representatives shipped approximately 180 metric tons of graphite from the North Korean port at Nampo to Inch’ŏn. The joint graphite-mining effort stalled the next year for several reasons, including stricter policies regarding North Korea enacted by South Korean president Myung-bak Lee in 2008. Insufficient...
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Semiconductors (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korea expands its economy with technology and electronics exports and has consistently been a global leader in the production of semiconductor resources. Semiconductors are South Korea’s most valuable export; the country ships more semiconductors internationally than televisions and automobiles. Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Electronics Industrial Company, and GoldStar (now LG Electronics) dominated semiconductor manufacturing in the late 1980’s. Those manufacturers worked with the government’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute to create a semiconductor with a four-megabit random access memory (RAM) chip, enabling storage of four million binary units, revolutionary at that time, matching semiconductor achievements in the United States and Japan. In 1996, South Korean semiconductor companies manufactured 17 percent of dynamic RAM semiconductors in the world. South Korea’s semiconductor resources generated more than $10 billion annually during the 1990’s.
By the early twenty-first century, South Korea was producing the greatest quantity of semiconductors globally, with Samsung’s semiconductor plant at Kiheung and Hynix Semiconductor manufacturing most of the world’s memory chips. South Korean engineers seek to improve semiconductor design, speed, and capacity to compete with regional rivals Japan, China, and India and secure electronics markets worldwide. Since 2004, the Consortium of...
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Other Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
South Korean gold and silver deposits and mines are located on Muguk and Gasado Island. Several hundred thousand metric tons of copper are refined annually at Onsan and Changhang smelters. Fisheries had represented 1 percent of South Korean exports until a shift in focus to technology exports occurred, resulting in less commercial fishing. In 2009, South Korea invested $17.8 billion in a river restoration project to improve water resources. Programs to replenish forests damaged in twentieth century wars contributed to increased timber resources for economic gains.
Because South Korea’s native resources for energy are limited, the country relies on nuclear and thermal plants to produce power. In 2006,nuclear power plants produced 36.6 percent of electricity, representing 379.73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated. South Korea used the fifth most nuclear energy internationally in 2007. A tidal power plant built in 2009 at the lake near Sihwa produced the same amount of power annually as obtained from 862,000 barrels of oil, and a bigger tidal power plant, designed to be the largest in the world, was planned for construction on Ganghwa Island. South Korean officials encourage photovoltaic cell manufacturing and power plants to supplement energy resources and export for profit. By 2008, South Korea was ranked fourth globally in photovoltaic technology. In the early twenty-first century, South Korea produced the...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Fackler, Martin. “Big Dreams for North Korean Industrial Park.” The New York Times, August 21, 2008, p. C3.
“In the Global War for Resources, Korea Could Be Left Behind.” Business Korea 26, no. 297 (March, 2009): 16-17.
Kim, Sang-Wan, et al. “Analysis of Ground Subsidence in Coal Mining Area Using SAR Interferometry.” Geosciences Journal 12, no. 3 (September, 2008): 277-284.
Mathews, John A., and Dong-Sung Cho. Tiger Technology: The Creation of a Semiconductor Industry in East Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Republic of Korea (official Web site). http://www.korea.net
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Historical and Political Context (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Korea’s history dates from 2333 b.c.e. In its earlier dynasties, Buddhism greatly influenced the nation’s politics and culture. The last regime, the Joseon Dynasty, formed in the fourteenth century, and Confucianism exerted a massive influence over the whole of the society. From the seventeenth century on, practical and liberal ideologies began to be adopted, leading to agricultural improvements and social reforms.
Korea has suffered many foreign invasions. In 1910, Japan colonized the peninsula. Korea was librated from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to Allied forces in August, 1945. After the war, the new global geopolitics and ideology of the Cold War led to the division of the peninsula into two nations, South Korea and North Korea, with utterly opposed political and economic systems.
In August, 1948, the legitimate, democratic South Korean government was formally established. South Korea developed full democracy and a market economy. In June, 1950, the Korean War broke out, as North Korea invaded South Korea. The war lasted until July, 1953. Since the 1960’s, South Korea’s growth-oriented, export-led economic development has seen remarkable growth. In 2006, South Korea’s economy was the twelfth largest in the world, and the nation became a global economic leader. Meanwhile, South Korea successfully hosted the twenty-fourth...
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Impact of South Korean Policies on Climate Change (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
South Korea’s development strategy since 1960 achieved extraordinary economic growth rates. The unprecedented growth was achieved by massive production and an energy-concentrated industrial structure, focusing on the steel, petrochemical, and cement industries. After thirty years of rapid economic development, Korea transformed itself from an agricultural economy into a highly industrialized economy. This development strategy required a seemingly infinite supply of energy and natural resources and entailed considerable consumption of fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Furthermore, low oil prices for industrial use and very low investment in energy-saving equipment were responsible for inefficient energy consumption that contributed to rapid increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Since the late 1990’s, South Korea has changed its traditional energy paradigm of mass production and mass consumption in response to international climate change agreements. This effort has resulted in significant decreases in GHG emissions per capita. The skyrocketing price of oil and increasing dependence on imported energy, moreover, forced the government to adapt sustainable economic growth strategies. In 2008, South Korea launched a greenenergy development strategy,Green Korea, focused on changing the national energy structure to fight global climate change by cutting GHG emissions...
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South Korea as a GHG Emitter (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
As a result of South Korea’s rapid economic growth from the 1960’s to the late 1990’s, energy consumption and CO2 emissions also grew rapidly. Energy consumption, however, grew much more rapidly than did economic growth. This was primarily because of the poor energy efficiency of each sector of industry and governmental heavy-industry-oriented development strategies. During the period of economic development, CO2 emissions increased significantly. The average annual growth rate of CO2 emissions was 7.4 percent between 1981 and 1997. Over this period, total CO2 emissions increased 3.3 times. In addition, the growth rate of the transportation sector was greater than that of other sectors because of significant increases in the number of automobiles in the nation. This trend slowed after the late 1990’s.
CO2 emissions doubled again between 1990 and 2004. These emissions grew faster than those of any other member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over the same period. South Korea’s total emissions continue to increase, although the ratio of GHG emission to gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased. In 2004, South Korea was the world’s thirteenth-largest economy but ranked as the ninth-greatest GHG emitter, and it contributed about 1.7 percent of global CO2 emissions. It was on track to become the sixth-greatest GHG emitter by 2010.
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Summary and Foresight (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
South Korean GHG emissions have grown significantly along with rapid economic growth. Because Korea’s industrial structure is biased to the resource- and energy-intensive industries, South Korea consumes more energy than do other leading industrial countries to make the same products. This energy-intensivity results from South Korea’s heavy and chemical industry drives in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the poor energy efficiency of those industries. In the early twenty-first century, South Korea undertook rapid restructuring of its industrial sector, transitioning from conventional heavy industry to new high-technology industries.
In 2008, South Korea adapted a new energy plan for sustainable development, focusing on clean energy industrial initiatives, introducing highly energy efficient technologies and products, and promoting the use of non-polluting, alternative, renewable energy sources. Particular emphasis was placed on the government’s initiatives to restructure the electricity industry, which contributes one-third of South Korea’s total CO2 emissions, and to significantly increase the share of renewable energy sources from 2.4 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2030. According to this plan, the government seeks to maintain the level of CO2 emissions of 2005 (536 million metric tons) until 2012 and then reduce the emission by an average 2.2 percent annually.
South Korea also takes responsibility for...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Choi, Yearn Hong. South Korea’s Environmental Policy and Management. Seoul, South Korea: Shinkwang, 2008. Describes environmental policy and management from a comparative perspective and surveys a wide range of environmental issues facing the people and politicians of South Korea.
Korea Environment Institute. “Policies on Promoting Environmental Industries and International Cooperation.” Korea Environmental Policy Bulletin 5 (2007): 1-11. Provides an overview of South Korea’s policies promoting environmental industries as future growth engines and increasing international cooperation by participating in global environmental efforts.
Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Surveys contemporary Korean history, narrating the history of Korea’s travails and triumphs over the last three decades of the twentieth century.
Yoon, Esook. “South Korean Environmental Foreign Policy.” Asia-Pacific Review 13 (2006): 74-96. Examines two different stances of South Korea’s environmental foreign policy: prioritizing its own economic interests in global negotiations and promoting regional environmental cooperation in Northeast Asia.
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