South Korea’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Namdaemun Market, Seoul

Namdaemun Market, Seoul

Three of South Korea’s 10 largest export companies operate in automotive industry. Two Korean electronics industry players also rank among the Asian country’s top 10 exporters.

To give some contextual perspective on recent company performance, the overall value of Korean exports declined by -5.1% from US$555.2 billion in 2011 to $526.9 billion during 2015.

In the analysis below, we compare South Korea’s top 10 export companies based on asset values, sales and profitability as of May 2016. Also specified is the Korean city where each business has its headquarters.

South Korea’s Top 10 Major Export Companies


Below are South Korea’s biggest export companies organized by asset value. Shown within parentheses is the primary industry in which each company operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of May 2016 compared to 2015.

  1. Samsung Electronics (semiconductors): US$206.5 billion up 1.8% from 2015
  2. Hyundai Motor (car/truck makers): $141 billion, up 11.6%
  3. Hanwha Corp (product trading, explosives): $124.2 billion, up 15.6%
  4. SK Holdings (oil, gas): $82.4 billion, down -6%
  5. Posco (iron, steel): $68.6 billion, down -14.3%
  6. Hyundai Heavy Industries (heavy equipment): $42.4 billion, down -15.9%
  7. KIA Motors (car/truck makers): $39.2 billion, up 14.3%
  8. Hyundai Mobis (automotive parts): $32.2 billion, down -1.2%
  9. LG Electronics (consumer electronics): $31 billion, down -8.1%
  10. Hyundai Steel (iron, steel): $27.2 billion, down -2.7%

Four of these large Korean exporters grew their asset values from 2015 to May 2016, led by explosives maker and product trading firm Hanwha Corp’s 15.6% gain. Auto makers KIA Motors (up 14.3%) and Hyundai Motor (up 11.6%) as well as Samsung Electronics (up 1.8%) also posted asset gains.

Hyundai Heavy Industries suffered the greatest cutback in asset size shrinking by -15.9%.


Sales is the life blood of all business, particularly for firms that compete in international trade. Five of South Korea’s largest export companies increased their year-over-year sales as of May 2016.

  1. Samsung Electronics: US$177.3 billion, down -15.1% from 2015
  2. Hyundai Motor: $81.3 billion, up 1.8%
  3. LG Electronics: $49.9 billion, down -6%
  4. Posco: $48 billion, down -15%
  5. KIA Motors: $43.8 billion, up 0.6%
  6. Hyundai Heavy Industries: $40.9 billion, down -17.5%
  7. Hanwha Corp: $36.6 billion, up 3.3%
  8. SK Holdings: $35 billion, down -65.8%
  9. Hyundai Mobis: $32.1 billion, up 2.9%
  10. Hyundai Steel: $14.3 billion, up 14.9%

Hyundai Steel recorded a 14.9% increase in sales followed by Hanwha Corp (up 3.3%), Hyundai Mobis (2.9%), Hyundai Motor (up 1.8%) and KIA Motors (up 0.6%).

Sales declines ranged from a drastic -65.8% drop for petroleum industry conglomerate SK Holdings to a more moderate -6% decrease for LG Electronics.


Reflective of a slowing global economy, two of South Korea’s top 10 major export companies posted losses as of May 2016.

  1. Samsung Electronics: US$16.5 billion, down -39.3% from 2015
  2. Hyundai Motor: $5.7 billion, down -27.3%
  3. SK Holdings: $4.7 billion, up 1473.3%
  4. Hyundai Mobis: $2.7 billion, down -12.9%
  5. KIA Motors: $2.3 billion, down -33.7%
  6. Hyundai Steel: $648.2 million, up 8%
  7. Posco: $159.3 million, down -86.7%
  8. LG Electronics: $109.9 million, down -45.1%
  9. Hanwha Corp: -$251.8 million, down -351.8%
  10. Hyundai Heavy Industries: -$1.2 billion, down -503.3%

Two the profitable Korean export companies managed to boost their bottom-line black ink in the latest May 2016 period. Petroleum industry conglomerate SK Holdings increased its profits by 1,473% from 2015, way ahead of the 8% gain for Hyundai Steel.

Hyundai Heavy Industries went from a $300 million profit in 2015 to a -$1.3 billion loss as of May 2016. Similarly, Hanwha Corp reversed a $100 million profit with a -$251.8 million.


Six of South Korea’s top 10 major export companies have their headquarters located in the country’s capital city, Seoul.

  1. Samsung Electronics: Suwon
  2. Hyundai Motor: Seoul
  3. Hanwha Corp: Seoul
  4. SK Holdings: Seoul
  5. Posco: Pohang
  6. Hyundai Heavy Industries: Ulsan
  7. KIA Motors: Seoul
  8. Hyundai Mobis: Seoul
  9. LG Electronics: Seoul
  10. Hyundai Steel: Inchon


Note some of the above company offerings may include products other than the principal category shown within parenthesis under the Assets tab.

For example, SK Holdings not only distributes natural gas but also provides information technology services, architecture and civil engineering services. In addition, SK Holdings makes petrochemicals and develops biopharmaceuticals.

Besides making iron and steel products, Posco engineers industrial plants, civil engineering projects, commercial and residential buildings.

See also South Korea’s Top 10 Exports, Highest Value Korean Export Products and Top South Korean Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Forbes 2016 Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top Korean company compiled for this study: Samsung Electronics. Accessed on July 26, 2016

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 26, 2016

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 26, 2016

Wikipedia, Category: Companies of South Korea. Accessed on July 26, 2016

Wikipedia, List of companies of South Korea. Accessed on July 26, 2016