A highly developed, stable, democratic republic with powers shared between the president and the legislature, South Korea is "one of America's closest allies and greatest friends," as President Barack Obama has put it. Korean is the official language, but English is spoken widely. The country has a population of about 49 million. Despite GDP growth of only 2 percent in 2012 to about $1.2 trillion, the nearly 100,000-square-mile country remains a preferred destination for foreign investment. By the end of 2012, foreign shareholders owned nearly 35 percent of the stocks traded on the Korean Stock Exchange.