South Korea shipped US$683.6 billion worth of exported products during 2022, up by 13% compared to $605.2 billion in 2018.
On an annual basis, that dollar total represents a 6.1% increase from $644.4 billion during 2021.
The 5 biggest customers for South Korean exported goods are mainland China, United States of America, Vietnam, Japan and Hong Kong. Combined, that leading quintet of importers bought more than half (56.3%) of South Korean exports.
Applying a continental lens, about three-fifths of (60.9%) South Korea’s exports by value in 2022 were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 19.1% were sold to North American importers. South Korea shipped another 12.2% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (3.8%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Africa (2%), then Latin America (1.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
South Korea’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 25 of South Korea’s top trading partners in terms of export sales during 2022. That is, these are countries that imported the most Korean shipments by dollar value. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Korean exports.
- China: US$155.8 billion (22.8% of total South Korean exports)
- United States: $110.2 billion (16.1%)
- Vietnam: $61 billion (8.9%)
- Japan: $30.6 billion (4.5%)
- Hong Kong: $27.7 billion (4%)
- Taiwan: $26.2 billion (3.8%)
- Singapore: $20.2 billion (3%)
- India: $18.9 billion (2.8%)
- Australia: $18.8 billion (2.7%)
- Mexico: $12.7 billion (1.9%)
- Philippines: $12.3 billion (1.8%)
- Malaysia: $11.5 billion (1.7%)
- Indonesia: $10.2 billion (1.5%)
- Germany: $10.1 billion (1.5%)
- Thailand: $8.6 billion (1.3%)
- Netherlands: $7.87 billion (1.2%)
- Poland: $7.86 billion (1.1%)
- Canada: $7.84 billion (1.1%)
- Türkiye: $7.72 billion (1.1%)
- United Kingdom: $6.36 billion (0.9%)
- Russia: $6.33 billion (0.9%)
- Hungary: $6.2 billion (0.9%)
- France: $5.3 billion (0.8%)
- Italy: $5.1 billion (0.8%)
- Belgium: $5 billion (0.7%)
Almost nine-tenths (87.8%) of South Korean exports in 2022 was delivered to the above 25 trade partners.
The fastest-growing top importers that increased purchases of goods shipped from South Korea from 2021 to 2022 were Australia (up 92.4%), Hungary (up 52.1%), Singapore (up 42.5%), Netherlands (up 35.1%), Philippines (up 27.4%) and India (up 20.9%).
There were 4 decliners year over year namely Russia (down -36.6%), Hong Kong (down -26.2%), Germany (down -9.4%) and mainland China (down -4.4%).
Countries Causing the Greatest Trade Deficits for South Korea
South Korea recorded an overall -$47.8 billion trade deficit for 2022, reversing a $29.4 billion trade surplus during 2021.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
In 2022, South Korea incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Saudi Arabia: -US$36.8 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2022)
- Australia: -$26.2 billion
- Japan: -$24.1 billion
- Qatar: -$16 billion
- Germany: -$13.5 billion
- Kuwait: -$12 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$11.5 billion
- Russia: -$8.5 billion
- Iraq: -$8.3 billion
- Indonesia: -$5.5 billion
Among South Korea’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, South Korean deficits with the United Arab Emirates (up 244.6%), Indonesia (up 153.7%) and Iraq (up 92.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate South Korea’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for South Korea to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Countries Generating the Biggest Trade Surpluses for South Korea
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2022, South Korea incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Vietnam: US$34.2 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2022)
- United States of America: $28 billion
- Hong Kong: $25.8 billion
- India: $10 billion
- Singapore: $9.9 billion
- Philippines: $7.1 billion
- Poland: $6.8 billion
- Türkiye: $6.3 billion
- Hungary: $5.4 billion
- Liberia: $4.2 billion
Among South Korea’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, South Korean surpluses with Singapore (up 183%), Liberia (up 109.8%) and Hungary (up 62.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate South Korea’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for South Korea to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
South Korean Companies Servicing International Customers
According to Korea Trade World’s directory, the following are examples of entrepreneurial companies that ship products from South Korea to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are examples of products that the Korean business specializes in.
- Auk Corp. (electronics transistors, diodes)
- Changeui Medical Co. Ltd (orthopedic/ambulatory/rehab appliances)
- Dana Biz Co. (home entertainment, security systems)
- Dyna Solution Co., Ltd. (metal-cutting/forming fluids, special oil)
- Kaps Korea Auto Parts Servies Co. Ltd (vehicle parts, accessories)
- Koinonia (iron ore, steel scrap)
- Manda International Co. Ltd (computer peripherals)
- P.K. Chemicals, Inc. (petrochemicals, additives)
- Rits International Korea (oil, gas)
- Segae Precision Co. Ltd (disposible syringes)
- YM Corp (mobile phone/GPS jammers)
See also South Korea’s Top 10 Exports, South Korea’s Top 10 Imports, Top South Korean Trade Balances and Top Asian Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Country Profiles. Accessed on April 5, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 5, 2023
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on April 5, 2023
Korea Trade World, South Korean Suppliers. Accessed on April 5, 2023