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$95.3 billion in 2017, up by 131.5% from a $41.2 billion surplus in 2010 after the global recession began. Year over year, the $95.3 billion in black ink for 2017 represents a 6.8% expansion from the $89.2 billion surplus that South Korea incurred during 2016.

As of June 2018, South Korea’s trade deficit/surplus stood at $32.1 billion down -28.5% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

Top South Korean Trade Balances by Product and Country

Product+

The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $188.4 billion for South Korea in its global trade during 2017. Metrics listed below highlight South Korea’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners in terms of commodities.

  1. Integrated circuits/microassemblies: US$52.7 billion (Up 274.8% since 2010)
  2. Cars: $29.2 billion (Up 1%)
  3. Cruise/cargo ships, barges: $22.7 billion (Down -34.5%)
  4. Processed petroleum oils: $18.8 billion (Up 46.3%)
  5. Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks: $15.7 billion (Up 81.3%)
  6. Automobile parts/accessories: $15.5 billion (Up 11.4%)
  7. Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools: $11.4 billion (Down -57.8%)
  8. Cyclic hydrocarbons: $8.3 billion (Up 197.4%)
  9. Miscellaneous machine electrical parts: $7.4 billion (Reversing a -$75.1 million deficit)
  10. TV/radio/radar device parts: $6.6 billion (Down -11.2%)

Leading increases for South Korea’s product surpluses from 2010 to 2017 were integrated circuits and microassemblies (up 274.8%), cyclic hydrocarbons (up 197.4%) trailed by the light vessels, fire boats and floating docks (up 81.3%) then the processed petroleum oils (up 46.3%) subcategories.

Product-

The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$125.2 billion for South Korea in international trade during 2017. South Korea exhibited the severest competitive disadvantages in terms of red ink from exporting and importing the following goods.

  1. Crude oil: -US$59.6 billion (Down -13.2% since 2010)
  2. Petroleum gases: -$18.4 billion (Down -14.7%)
  3. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: -$15.1 billion (Up 17.2%)
  4. Machinery for making semi-conductors: -$13.5 billion (Up 53.1%)
  5. Iron ores, concentrates: -$5.5 billion (Down -18%)
  6. Copper ores, concentrates: -$3.5 billion (Down -23.6%)
  7. Aluminum (unwrought): -$3.1 billion (Up 4.1%)
  8. Medication mixes in dosage: -$2.6 billion (Up 40.9%)
  9. Zinc ores, concentrates: -$2.1 billion (Up 91.9%)
  10. Cases, handbags, wallets: -$2 billion (Up 78.6%)

After 2010 South Korea’s red ink in global trade expanded for six of these top products, led by zinc ores and concentrates (up 91.9%), cases, handbags and wallets (up 78.6%) then machinery for making semi-conductors (up 53.1%).

South Korean product-specific deficits were whittled down for crude oil (down -13.2%), petroleum gases (down -14.7%), iron ores and concentrates (down -18%) and copper ores and concentrates (down -23.6%).

Country+

In 2017, South Korea generated a robust surplus subtotal worth $170.2 billion with the following 10 trading partners.

  1. China: US$44.3 billion (Down -2.2% since 2010)
  2. Hong Kong: $37.2 billion (Up 59.5%)
  3. Vietnam: $31.6 billion (Up 399.5%)
  4. United States: $18 billion (Up 90.9%)
  5. India: $10.1 billion (Up 75.5%)
  6. Philippines: $6.9 billion (Up 193.3%)
  7. Marshall Islands: $6.8 billion (Up 46%)
  8. Mexico: $6.5 billion (Down -10.8%)
  9. Turkey: $5.4 billion (Up 66%)
  10. Norway: $3.4 (Reversing a -$872 million deficit)

Seven of the top country-level South Korean trade surpluses expanded since 2010, led by the 399.5%) gain trading with Vietnam while South Korean trade with Norway went from red to black ink in the most recent period.

Two of South Korea’s positive net export scores declined thanks to a -2.2% surplus slowdown with China and a -10.8% shrinkage with Mexico since 2010.

Country-

South Korea experienced a deficit with 79 countries during 2017. The following 10 trade partners created a -$94.6 billion deficit subtotal from exchanging exports and imports.

  1. Japan: -US$28.3 billion (Down -21.6% since 2010)
  2. Saudi Arabia: -$14.4 billion (Down -35.3%)
  3. Germany: -$11.3 billion (Up 212.7%)
  4. Qatar: -$10.8 billion (Down -5.4%)
  5. Kuwait: -$8.4 billion (Down -13.9%)
  6. Russia: -$5.1 billion (Up 140.2%)
  7. Iraq: -$4.9 billion (Up 52.2%)
  8. United Arab Emirates: -$4.2 billion (Down -37.7%)
  9. Iran: -$4 billion (Up 70.1%)
  10. Taiwan: -$3.2 billion (Reversing a $1.2 billion surplus)

South Korea’s county-specific trade deficits in 2017 compared to 2010 grew with four of its top trade partners namely Germany (up 212.7%), Russia (up 140.2%), Iran (up 70.1%) and Iraq (up 52.2%) while going from black to red ink with Taiwan.

South Korea trimmed the size of its negative trade balances with five other top trade partners led by Mideastern nations Saudi Arabia (down -35.3%) and the United Arab Emirates (down -37.7%).


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 February 3, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 3, 2018

The World Factbook, Field Listing: World, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 3, 2018

Wikipedia, Economy of South Korea. Accessed on February 3, 2018