Click here to read Rabobank's economic vision for this country. The information and publications in this tab are prepared and made available by third parties and are only available in English. No rights can be derived. Rabobank is not responsible or liable for the information and publications. Click here for the full disclaimer.

Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

South Korea is the world's sixth largest exporter of goods and the ninth largest importer (it ranks 16th in terms of service imports). Trade represents nearly 85% of its GDP (2015).

Since February 2012, the country's trade balance has been in high surplus and is expected to remain so in the coming years. After having reached a record high of USD 105 billion in 2015, the trade surplus fell by 6.8% to USD 98.6 billion in 2016.

South Korea's main trade partners include China, Japan, the European Union and the United States.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 519,585515,584525,514436,499406,192
Exports of Goods (million USD) 547,870559,632572,664526,755495,426
Imports of Services (million USD) 107,794109,161114,741112,345110,436
Exports of Services (million USD) 102,298102,531110,96196,84492,828
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 2.41.71.52.14.5
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 5.14.32.0-0.12.1
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 53.548.945.038.435.4
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 56.353.950.345.342.2
Trade Balance (million USD) 49,40682,78188,885122,269120,446
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 109.9102.895.383.777.7

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2017; World Bank - 2017

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2016
China 25.1%
United States 13.5%
Hong Kong 6.6%
Vietnam 6.6%
Japan 4.9%
Singapore 2.5%
India 2.3%
Mexico 2.0%
Marshall Islands 1.6%
Malaysia 1.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2016
China 21.4%
Japan 11.7%
United States 10.7%
Germany 4.7%
Saudi Arabia 3.9%
Australia 3.7%
Vietnam 3.1%
Qatar 2.5%
Russia 2.1%
Indonesia 2.0%

Source: Comtrade, 2017

 

Main Products

495.4 bn USD of products exported in 2016
Electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 10.6%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 7.6%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.2%
Cruise ships, excursion boats, ferry-boats, cargo ships, barges and similar vessels for the transport of persons or goods 5.1%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 4.4%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 3.3%
Liquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other heading; lasers (excl. laser diodes); other optical appliances and instruments not elsewhere specified in chapter 90 3.3%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 2.2%
Cyclic hydrocarbons 1.6%
Light-vessels, fire-floats, dredgers, floating cranes, and other vessels the navigability of which is subsidiary to their main function; floating docks, floating or submersible drilling or production platforms (excl. fishing vessels and warships) 1.6%
406.2 bn USD of products imported in 2016
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 10.9%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 7.4%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 2.9%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.3%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 2.3%
Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal 2.3%
Machine-tools for working any material by removal of material, by laser or other light or photon beam, ultrasonic, electro-discharge, electro-chemical, electron beam, ionic-beam or plasma arc processes (excl. cleaning apparatus operated by ultrasonic processes, soldering and welding machines, incl. those which can be used for cutting, and material testing machines) 1.9%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 1.7%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 1.1%

Source: Comtrade, 2017

 
 
 

Main Services

103.4 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Transportation
31.29%
Other business services
27.01%
Travel
14.78%
Construction services
13.04%
Royalties and license fees
5.99%
Computer and information services
2.76%
Financial services
1.55%
Communications services
1.06%
Government services
1.00%
Cultural and recreational services
0.87%
Insurance services
0.66%
104.9 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Other business services
28.59%
Transportation
27.66%
Travel
23.80%
Royalties and license fees
9.38%
Construction services
2.86%
Computer and information services
1.83%
Financial services
1.82%
Communications services
1.43%
Government services
1.18%
Insurance services
0.84%
Cultural and recreational services
0.61%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
South Korean Won (KRW)
Exchange Rate Regime
Independently floating.
Level of Currency Instability
Low
 
 
Monetary Indicators 20122013201420152016
South Korean Won (KRW) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 1,126.471,094.851,052.961,131.161,160.27

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Main International Economic Cooperation
South Korea has signed several major free trade agreements in recent years: Australia (2014), China (2014), the European Union (2009) and the United States of America (2010). It is a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting). The country is a signatory to many multilateral and bilateral agreements. The country also signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention
Yes

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
- Import license,
- Invoice,
- Price declaration,
- Bill of Lading,
- Proofs that requirements have been satisfied under Article 226 of the Customs Act,
- Packing List,
- Certificate of Origin,
- Application for Duty exemption/abatement, preferential tariff rate, etc.
Free Zones
None
For Further Information
Korean Customs Office
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Non Tariff Barriers
Approval or authorisation is required for the import of certain items. Such requirements are maintained for the protection of public morals, human health, hygiene and sanitation, animal and plant life, environmental conservation or essential security interests in compliance with domestic legislation requirements or international commitments.

Quantitative import restrictions exist on rice, petroleum, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), agricultural fertilisers, crop seeds, animals and animal products, nuclear materials, narcotics, foods and food additives, foreign publications, firearms and explosives.

More information is available on the Korean Customs Service website.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
TV, semiconductor, steel, commercial vessls, large air craft, automobile, paper alcohol, beef, shrimp, rice, salmon, etc.

The WTO gives details of these disagreements on the page of information concerning the country.

Assessment of Commercial Policy
Korean trade policy, explained by the WTO
Exchange barriers, inventoried by the United States
Exchange barriers, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

Learn more about How to Export to South Korea on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS)
Integration in the International Standards Network
International Level: the International Standard Organisation (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Asia-Pacific Level: the APEC/SCSC; the ASEM/TFAP/SCA, Trade Facilitation Action Plan/Standards and Conformity Assessment of the Asia-European meeting; the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC).

Obligation to Use Standards
In many cases, the government obliges the industries to meet KS standard, even if the KS usage is not totally obligatory.
Classification of Standards
KS consists of 16 categories from 'General' to 'Information Industry' and is divided into three parts. More information is available on the Korean Standardisation website.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Respect of voluntary standardization is highly regarded in Korea; it can increase sales potential on the market and the acceptance of the product by consumers.
Online Consultation of Standards
Korean Standards Service Network
Certification Organisations
Korean Standards Association (KSA)
Associations of Standards Users
Community of Korea Standards Association (KSA)

 

© Export Entreprises SA, All Rights Reserved.
Last Updates: November 2017