Top South Korean Trade Balances

Gyeongbokgung Palace South Korea

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Exported cars, automotive parts or accessories and electronics components were major factors behind South Korea’s highest trade surpluses by product. China and Hong Kong placed first and second respectively among trade partners with which South Korea experienced the highest positive trade balances.

South Korea’s overall trade surplus for all products equaled US$89.4 billion in 2016, up by 121% from a $40.4 billion surplus in 2009 after the global recession began. Year over year, the $89.4 billion in black ink for 2016 represents a -1% deterioration from the $90.4 billion surplus that South Korea incurred during 2015.

Top South Korean Trade Balances by Product and Country

Product+

The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $147.5 billion for South Korea in its global trade during 2016. Metrics listed below highlight South Korea’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners in terms of commodities.

  1. Cars: US$28.2 billion (Up 37.2% since 2009)
  2. Cruise/cargo ships, barges: $23.6 billion (Down -31.9%)
  3. Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $22.4 billion (Up 702.2%)
  4. Automobile parts/accessories: $17.9 billion (Up 116%)
  5. Processed petroleum oils: $13.7 billion (Up 41.4%)
  6. Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools: $13.4 billion (Down -38.5%)
  7. Phone system devices including smartphones: $12.6 billion (Down -49.5%)
  8. Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks: $7.6 billion (Up 51.4%)
  9. Cyclic hydrocarbons: $6.5 billion (Up 211.5%)
  10. Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms: $5.7 (Up -546.6%)

Leading increases for South Korea’s product surpluses from 2009 to 2016 were Vietnam (up 321.7%), United States (up 170.3%), the Philippines (up 111.4%) and Turkey (up 108.8%).

Product-

The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$89.9 billion for South Korea in international trade during 2016. South Korea exhibited the severest competitive disadvantages in terms of red ink from exporting and importing the following goods.

  1. Crude oil: -US$44.2 billion (Down -12.8% since 2009)
  2. Petroleum gases: -$14.5 billion (Down -14.6%)
  3. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: -$9.2 billion (Down -6.7%)
  4. Machinery for making semi-conductors: -$5.7 billion (Up 87.8%)
  5. Iron ores, concentrates: -$4 billion (Up 14.4%)
  6. Copper ores, concentrates: -$2.8 billion (Down -15.4%)
  7. Medication mixes in dosage: -$2.7 billion (Up 65.3%)
  8. Aluminum (unwrought): -$2.66 billion (Up 42%)
  9. Miscellaneous aircraft, spacecraft (e.g. helicopters, launchers): -$2 billion (Up 181.5%)
  10. Corn: -$1.9 billion (Up 15.9%)

After 2009 South Korea’s red ink in global trade expanded for six of these top products, led by the following: miscellaneous aircraft and spacecraft (up 181.5%), machinery for making semi-conductors (up 87.8%) and medication mixes in dosage (up 65.3%).

South Korean product-specific deficits were whittled down for copper (down -15.4%), petroleum gases (down -14.6%), crude oil (down -12.8%) and coal-related products (down -6.7%).

Country+

In 2016, South Korea generated a robust surplus subtotal worth $159.2 billion with the following 10 trading partners.

  1. China: US$37.5 billion (Up 15.4% since 2009)
  2. Hong Kong: $31.2 billion (Up 71.5%)
  3. United States: $23.4 billion (Up 170.3%)
  4. Vietnam: $20.2 billion (Up 321.7%)
  5. China: $11.8 billion (Up 175%)
  6. Netherlands: $8.5 billion (Up 18.9%)
  7. Marshall Islands: $7.6 billion (Down -21.1%)
  8. India: $7.4 billion (Up 91.4%)
  9. Mexico: $6 billion (Down -2%)
  10. Singapore: $5.7 billion (Down -1.6%)

Seven of the top country-level South Korean trade surpluses expanded since 2009, led by: Vietnam (up 321.7%), China (up 175%), United States (up 170.3%) and India (up 91.4%).

Three of South Korea’s positive net exports declined: Marshall Islands (down -21.1%), Mexico (down 2%) and Singapore (down -1.6%).

Country-

South Korea experienced a deficit with 76 countries during 2016. The following 10 trade partners created a -$83.7 billion deficit subtotal from exchanging exports and imports.

  1. Japan: -US$23.1 billion (Down -16.5% since 2009)
  2. Germany: -$12.5 billion (Up 258.7%)
  3. Saudi Arabia: -$10.1 billion (Down -36.5%)
  4. Qatar: -$9.5 billion (Up 34.8%)
  5. Australia: -$7.7 billion (Down -19.3%)
  6. Kuwait: -$5.8 billion (Down -19.4%)
  7. Taiwan: -$4.2 billion (Up 1,094%)
  8. Russia: -$3.9 billion (Up 142.3%)
  9. Iraq: -$3.6 billion (Up 18.7%)
  10. France: -$3.3 billion (Up 212.5%)

South Korea’s county-specific trade deficits in 2016 compared to 2009 grew at the fastest pace with Taiwan (up 1,094%), Germany (up 258.7%), France (up 212.5%) and Russia (up 142.3%).

South Korea trimmed the size of its negative trade balances with four of its top partners: Saudi Arabia (down -36.5%), Kuwait (down -19.4%), Australia (down -19.3%) and Japan (down -16.5%).


See also South Korea’s Top Trading Partners, South Korea’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and South Korea’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on January 31, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on January 31, 2017

The World Factbook, Field Listing: World, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on January 31, 2017

Wikipedia, Economy of South Korea. Accessed on January 31, 2017