Korea, South - Infrastructure, power, and communications

South Korea has a very advanced and modern infrastructure, which has been expanding since the 1960s. Both the South Korean government and the private sector are involved in the financing, construction, and operation of various infrastructure projects and services. Over the first 20 years of the 21st century, the government will spend more than US$300 billion on airports, roads, railways, and mega-resorts. Additionally, it will spend US$60 billion on the construction of more than 100 new power-generation facilities.

South Korea has an extensive and well-kept system of roads. In 1998, it boasted 64,808 kilometers (40,272 miles) of paved roads, including 1,996 kilometers (1,240 miles) of expressways, and 22,182 kilometers (13,784 miles) of unpaved roads. There are several major north-south and east-west highways, but the growing number of vehicles in use puts heavy pressure on the land transport network. The number of private cars rose from fewer than 500,000 in the early 1980s to 7.581 million in 1999 when there were also 2.1 million trucks and 749,000 buses in use. To deal with the growing pressure on roads, the South Korean government has initiated a multibillion dollar project to expand the highways. Land transportation also includes regular train and bus services around the country. The railways consist of 6,240 kilometers (3,878 miles) of standard gauge tracks of which 525 kilometers (326 miles) are electrified.

In 1999, South Korea's air transportation system was served by 103 airports, of which 67 have paved runways. Major international airports are in Seoul (Kimpo), Pusan, and on Cheju Island. A new international airport, Inchon, is scheduled to open in 2001, after which Kimpo will function as a domestic airport for Seoul.

South Korea's sea transportation network includes various ports and harbors, the most important of which are in Chinhae, Inchon, Kunsan, Masan, Mokpo, Pohang, Pusan, Tonghaehang, Ulsan, and Yosu. To meet the needs of its growing economy, the South Korean government is planning billions of dollars' worth of port/harbor expansion projects. In 1999, South Korea's merchant fleet consisted of 461 ships of various size and functions (bulk, cargo, container, passenger, vehicle carrier, and fuel tanker) with a net cargo capacity of 5 million metric tons.

South Korea has a growing power-generation system that provides electricity for private and commercial needs. Originally a state-owned sector, the power system is being privatized. During the 1990s, total production increased from 184,660 gigawatt-hours (gWh) in 1995 to 239,325 gWh in 1999, outpacing demand by a comfortable level. Over time, South Korea's dependency on thermal and hydroelectric generators has been reduced in favor of nuclear-powered generators. The country lacks domestic fossil-energy resources, so the growing cost of imported oil and natural gas has encouraged this shift. Still, thermal generators account for the bulk of generated electricity. In 1998, the percentage of electricity generated by various methods was as follows: fossil fuel generators (59.56 percent), nuclear-powered generators (38.51 percent), hydroelectric generators (1.91 percent), and other (0.02 percent). The share contributed by nuclear-power generators rose to 42.8 percent in 1999.

The South Korean telecommunications system is among the best, the most modern, and the fastest growing in the world. The number of fixed telephone lines increased from 763,200 in 1973 to 20,963,000 in 1999, while the number of cellular telephone lines jumped from 1,641,000 in 1995 to 12,019,000 in 1999, an eightfold increase over a 5-year period. In 1999, there were at least 11 Internet providers. With 14 million Internet users in 2000, South Korea ranked third in the world after the United States and the United Kingdom. Also in 1999, there were at least 106 AM, 97 FM, and 6 shortwave radio stations, and 121 television stations apart from the 8 stations operated by the U.S. Armed Forces in South Korea. In 1997, there were at least 47.5 million radios and 15.9 million television sets in use.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
South Korea 393 1,033 346 138.3 302 N/A 156.8 55.53 10,860
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Japan 578 955 707 114.8 374 126.8 237.2 163.75 27,060
North Korea 199 147 53 N/A 0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

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