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Last Published: 8/29/2019

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a promising country for U.S. companies to conduct business. Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is currently valued at $2.09 trillion, ranking 11th in the world and third in East Asia.  As Korea’s long-established strength in the shipbuilding, steel, and petrochemical industries has begun to wane in recent years, the country’s leaders are looking towards other more technology-intensive industries to drive growth.  Such industries include healthcare (medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology), industrial chemicals, information technology (IT) components, semi-conductor manufacturing, aerospace and defense, energy, environmental technology, and transportation.

U.S. companies have already begun to identify opportunities in these growing industries.  In addition, U.S. companies have begun partnering with local Korean companies to expand market opportunities 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 valued at 90 percent of GDP.  Given its robust shipping and air cargo infrastructure, Korea serves not only as a market end-point for U.S. goods and services, but also as a hub for expansion into other markets.


  • Population (as of March 2019): 51.8 million
  • Capital: Seoul
  • Government: Democratic Republic
GDP ($ billions)1,4151,5311,619
GDP per capita (USD)27,60829,74331,363
GDP Growth (% change)
GDP Growth Rate Per Capita (% change)
Consumer Prices (% change)
Unemployment (% of labor force)
           Source: World Bank

Foreign Merchandise Trade ($ billions)201620172018
Exports to World from ROK495.4573.7605.2
Imports from World to ROK406.2478.5535.2
U.S. Exports to ROK*42.9149.2857.62
U.S. Imports from ROK*70.3971.8175.01
U.S. Trade Balance with ROK*-27.47-22,53-17.39
Position in U.S. Trade201620172018
Rank of ROK in U.S. Exports*777
Rank of ROK in U.S. Imports*667
ROK Share of U.S. Exports (%)*
ROK Share of U.S. Imports (%)*
Principal U.S. Exports to ROK (2018)Principal U.S. Imports from ROK (2018)
1. Mineral Fuel and Oil (17.68%)                         
2. Nuclear Reactors, Boilers, Machinery (13.99%)
3. Electric Machinery, Sound Equipment, and TV Equipment (10.05%)
4. Optic, Photo, Medical and Surgical Instruments (6.21%)
5. Aircraft, Spacecraft, and Parts (5.90%)
1. Vehicles (24.86%)
2. Nuclear Reactors, Boilers, and Machinery (20.76%)
3. Electric Machinery; Sound Equipment, and TV Equipment (18.72%)
4. Mineral Fuel and Oil (4.27%)
5. Pharmaceutical Products (3.65%).

  • World Bank Ease of Doing Business Ranking 2019: 5 of 190
  • Heritage/WSJ 2019 Index of Economic Freedom Ranking: 29 of 180
  • WEF World Competitiveness Ranking 2018: 15 of 140

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South Korea Trade Development and Promotion