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, as do two Korean competitors from the oil and gas sector.

To give some contextual perspective on recent company performance, the overall value of Korean exports declined by -9.6% from US$547.8 billion in 2012 to $495.4 billion during 2016.

In the analysis below, we compare South Korea’s top 10 export companies based on asset values, sales and profitability as of May 2017. 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 business operates. Also shown is the change in asset value as of May 2017 compared to May 2016.

  1. Samsung Electronics (semiconductors): US$217.1 billion up 5.1% from 2016
  2. Hyundai Motor (car/truck makers): $148.1 billion, up 5%
  3. Hanwha Corp (product trading, explosives): $128.2 billion, up 3.2%
  4. SK Holdings (oil, gas): $85.3 billion, up 3.5%
  5. Posco (iron, steel): $66 billion, down -3.8%
  6. KIA Motors (car/truck makers): $42.1 billion, up 7.4%
  7. Hyundai Heavy Industries (heavy equipment): $40.8 billion, down -3.8%
  8. Hyundai Mobis (automotive parts): $34.5 billion, up 7.1%
  9. LG Electronics (consumer electronics): $31.3 billion, up 1%
  10. SK Innovation (iron, steel): $27 billion, down -0.7%

Seven of these export-oriented Korean businesses grew their asset values from May 2016 to May 2017, led by automotive industry titans KIA Motors (up 7.4%) and Hyundai Mobis (up 7.1%). Samsung Electronics (up 5.1%) and auto maker Hyundai Motor (up 5%) also posted respectable gains followed by SK Holdings (up 3.5%), explosives maker and product trading firm Hanwha Corp (up 3.2%) and LG Electronics (up 1%).


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 2017.

  1. Samsung Electronics: US$174 billion, down -1.9% from 2016
  2. Hyundai Motor: $80.7 billion, down -0.7%
  3. SK Holdings: $72.1 billion, up 106%
  4. LG Electronics: $47.7 billion, down -4.4%
  5. Posco: $45.8 billion, down -4.6%
  6. KIA Motors: $45.4 billion, up 3.7%
  7. Hanwha Corp: $40.6 billion, up 10.9%
  8. SK Innovation: $34.1 billion, up 0.3%
  9. Hyundai Heavy Industries: $33.9 billion, down -17.1%
  10. Hyundai Mobis: $33 billion, up 2.8%

Petroleum industry conglomerate SK Holdings recorded a formidable 106% increase in sales. In second place was Hanwha Corp (up 10.9%) followed by KIA Motors (up 3.7%), Hyundai Mobis (up 2.8%) and SK Innovation (up 0.3%).

Sales declines ranged from a -17.1% drop for Hyundai Heavy Industries decelerating to a more moderate -0.7% dip for automaker Hyundai Motor.


Perhaps reflective of an improving global economy, all of South Korea’s top 10 major export companies were profitable as of May 2017. This contrasts with May 2016 when Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hanwha Corp posted losses.

  1. Samsung Electronics: US$19.3 billion, up 17.1% from 2016
  2. Hyundai Motor: $4.7 billion, down -17.5%
  3. Hyundai Mobis: $2.6 billion, down -3.7%
  4. KIA Motors: $2.4 billion, up 4.3%
  5. SK Innovation: $1.4 billion, up 0.7%
  6. Posco: $1.1 billion, up 590.5%
  7. SK Holdings: $660 million, down -86%
  8. Hyundai Heavy Industries: $452 million, reversing a -$1.2 billion loss
  9. Hanwha Corp: $424 million, reversing a -$251.8 million loss
  10. LG Electronics: $66 million, down -39.9%

Four of these Korean multinationals managed to boost their bottom-line black ink in the latest May 2017 period, led by iron and steel maker Posco (up 590.5%). In second place was Samsung Electronics (up 17.1%), followed by KIA Motors (up 4.3%) then SK Innovation (up 0.7%).

Reversing significant losses from May 2016 were Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hanwha Corp, both of which posted respectable profits as of May 2017.

On a less positive note, four Korean companies endured declining profits for the 12 months ending May 2017. Profits for SK Holdings was down -86%, LG Electronics fell -39.9%, Hyundai Motor slipped -17.5% and auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis retreated by -3.7%.


Seven 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. SK Innovation: Seoul


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 designs industrial plants, civil engineering projects as well as 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 2017 Global 2000 individual company profiles, Example of top Korean company compiled for this study: Samsung Electronics. Accessed on January 17, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on January 17, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on January 17, 2018

Wikipedia, Category: Companies of South Korea. Accessed on January 17, 2018

Wikipedia, List of companies of South Korea. Accessed on January 17, 2018