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South Korea (the Republic of Korea) forms the south of the Korean Peninsula (Han) bordering North Korea. It is surrounded by the Yellow Sea (west), East China Sea (south) and Sea of Japan (east).

Korea was ruled by the kingdom of Gojoseon until conquered by China in the 2nd century BC. It became divided into 3 Kingdoms from 18 BC. The Silla and the Baekje, a  maritime power, ruled the south. In 676 AD they were unified by the Buddhist Silla Kingdom until control of the whole peninsula fell to the Goguryeo in 936, who were replaced by the Joseon dynasty from 1392.

The country repelled invasions from Japan and China and became isolationist. Peaceful for many centuries, it was eventually occupied by Japan from 1905 to 1945 who tried to extinguish its culture.

In 1948, after World War 2, the peninsula was split along the 38th parallel with the north supported by the USSR and the south by the USA. A North Korean invasion then led to the Korean War in 1950. China intervened and an armistice was declared in 1953 with boundaries restored, separated by a Demilitarised Zone. However, no peace treaty was ever signed.

From the 1960s South Korea overtook the north’s economy and became a regional power with a rapidly growing economy, an advanced democracy, a modern cultural outlook, and leading global companies. It was recognised by Russia and China in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

Korea is a mountainous peninsula with South Korea comprising 4 geographic regions. The east contains high mountain ranges and narrow coastal plains. The west is a broad coastal plain with river basins and rolling hills.

The southwest consists of mountains and valleys and the southeast is dominated by the broad basin of the Nakdong River. Around 3,000 islands, mostly small and uninhabited, lie off the western and southern coast with Jeju-do about 100 kms to the south, the largest and the site of the highest mountain, Hallasan, an extinct volcano reaching 1,950 m.

South Korea has one offshore gas field, Donghae-1, discovered in 1993 off the south eastern coast in the Sea of Japan. Donghae-1 came onstream in 2004 and is marginally economic. Few new developments are forecast by Globalshift, except perhaps small satellite discoveries. The country imports large volumes of LNG.

South Korea produces small amounts of oil and NGLs from Donghae-1 but appears to have no substantial oil prospects. Onshore it lacks sedimentary basins of sufficient thickness to generate hydrocarbons.

Donghae-1, the country’s only producing field, will be converted to storage in 2018.


Map and National Flag


Bowing policeman

North Asia

Korea (South)

E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)

Statistics (in 2020)


49 mm






Brief history of the country

South Korea has a presidential system. The president, elected to serve one 5-year term, is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The Cabinet, including the President and Prime Minister, is the highest body in the executive.

The legislative branch is unicameral, consisting of a 300-member elected National Assembly. Members of the National Assembly serve 4-year terms. Local governments contain executive and legislative bodies of their own.

The oil and gas industry is overseen by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) which was formed from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy in 2013. Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) is the NOC, established in 1979 and operating oil and gas fields in many countries.

Click below for:

Korea (South) Gallery Datafiles

Excel files - histories and forecasts of production and wells for all countries and regions