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Last Published: 9/6/2018

The US$1.97 trillion Korean GDP ranks 11th in the world and third in the East Asia region.  As Korea’s traditional strengths in sectors such as shipbuilding, steel, and petrochemicals have declined somewhat in recent years, the country’s leaders are looking to move toward more technology-intensive industries. U.S. companies will find market opportunities in leading industries such as life sciences, healthcare (medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology), industrial chemicals, IT components, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, aerospace/defense, energy, environmental technology, and transportation, to name only a few.  U.S. companies are already partnering with local Korean companies and industries to expand market opportunities from Korea to third-country markets, including ASEAN, the Middle East, and other markets of the Asia-Pacific.  Korea remains one of the world’s most trade dependent nations, with trade equaling 90 percent of GDP.  Given Korea’s strong shipping and air cargo infrastructure, this is not only a market end-point for U.S. goods and services, but also a hub for expansion into other markets.

  • Population in March 2018 (Millions): 51.6
  • Capital: Seoul
  • Government: Republic
Nominal GDP (PPP - Billions US$)1,7961,8771,969
GDP per head (Current US$)27,402.027,733.029,200
Real GDP Growth Rate (% change)
Real GDP Growth Rate Per Capita (% change)
Consumer Prices (% change)
Unemployment (% of labor force)
     Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit
FOREIGN MERCHANDISE TRADE (US$ Millions)201520162017
Korea, Republic of, Exports to World526,757495,426573,694
Korea, Republic of, Imports from World436,499406,193478,478
U.S. Exports to Korea, Republic of43,44642,26648,326
U.S. Imports from Korea, Republic of71,82769,93271,444
U.S. Trade Balance with Korea, Republic of-28,313-27,666-23118
Position in U.S. Trade:   
Rank of Korea, Republic of, in U.S. Exports777
Rank of Korea, Republic of, in U.S. Imports666
Korea, Republic of, Share (%) of U.S. Exports2.92.93.1
Korea, Republic of, Share (%) of U.S. Imports3.23.23.0
Principal U.S. Exports to Korea, Republic of, in 2017:Principal U.S. Imports from Korea, Republic of, in 2017:
1. Machinery, excl. Electrical (16.8%)1. Transportation Equipment (31.9%)
2. Computer & Electronic Products (15.6%)2. Computer & Electronic Products (22.3%)
3. Chemicals (13.4%)3. Machinery, excl. Electrical (8.8)
4. Transportation Equipment (12.4%)4. Chemicals (6.5%)
5. Food Manufactures (7.8%)5. Electrical Equipment (6.5%)
  • World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking 2017: 4 of 190
  • Heritage/WSJ 2018 Index of Economic Freedom Ranking: 27 of 180
  • WEF World Competitiveness Ranking 2016 - 2017: 26 of 138

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South Korea Trade Development and Promotion