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Korea’s trade value reaches record high of $1.1 trillion in 2018 2019-01-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on January 1 that Korea’s trade value in 2018 reached a record high of USD 1.1 trillion, exceeding the $1 trillion mark for two straight years. The country’s annual exports posted a 5.5 percent growth to $605.5 billion, which is also an unprecedented achievement. With imports rising 11.8 percent to $535.0 billion, Korea remained as a net exporter for 10 consecutive years with a trade surplus of $70.5 billion.
Compared to other years, 2018 was the year that took the shortest amount of time for the Korean trade to surpass the $1 trillion mark.

Korea has become the seventh country to achieve an annual export value of more than $600 billion after the U.S., Germany, China, Japan, the Netherlands, and France. Its exports were also the sixth largest in the world, driving the country's economic growth.

By item, the following three export goods posted record highs last year: semiconductors ($126.7 billion), general machinery ($53.6 billion), and petrochemicals ($50.1 billion).

Moreover, eight new industry export items, including electric vehicles, new materials, and robots, achieved a year-on-year growth of 6.9 percent to $78.8 billion. Among promising consumer goods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals grew at double-digit rates for seven straight years and for five straight years, respectively. For high-value added items, exports of organic light-emitting diodes topped $10 billion for the first time ever.

Balanced market diversification was also achieved in 2018. Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) increased 5.3 percent; Vietnam, 1.8 percent; India, 3.7 percent; and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), 17.7 percent.

Among 13 major export item categories, six of them posted growth: petroleum products (up 33.5 percent), semiconductors (up 29.4 percent), computers (up 17.3 percent), petrochemicals (up 12.0 percent), general machinery (up 10.2 percent), and textiles (up 2.5 percent). In particular, the first five items grew at double-digit rates.

The remaining seven items that saw declines were auto parts (down 0.1 percent), steel (down 0.6 percent), automobiles (down 1.9 percent), displays (down 9.9 percent), home appliances (down 18.3 percent), wireless communication devices (down 22.6 percent), and ships (down 49.6 percent).

By region, exports to all destinations increased, except for the Middle East and Central and South America. Especially, shipments to the following regions saw double-digit growths: the CIS (up 17.7 percent), China (up 14.2 percent), and Japan (up 14.2 percent).

The improved imports were largely a result of increased production and increased exports. By use, imports of commodities, consumer goods, and intermediary goods rose 23.5 percent, 13.6 percent, and 11.0 percent, respectively. Those of capital goods, on the other hand, fell 2.8 percent.

Imports from the following seven regions grew at double-digit rates: the CIS (up 42.0 percent), the Middle East (up 23.5 percent), Vietnam (up 21.8 percent), India (up 18.8 percent), the U.S. (up 16.4 percent), Central and South America (up 14.6 percent), and ASEAN (up 11.6 percent). Inbound shipments from the CIS and the Middle East saw noticeable improvements because of increased demand for commodities such as crude oil.

Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yunmo said that despite the ongoing U.S.-China trade dispute and increasing volatility in global financial markets, Korea’s trade value in 2018 posted a record high and its exports topped $600 billion for the first time ever. He added that the Ministry will utilize its full policy capacity to overcome downside risks, thereby helping the country achieve exports of $600 billion again this year.

For December 2018, Korea’s exports inched down 1.2 percent to $48.5 billion compared to the same period a year earlier while imports improved 0.9 percent to $43.9 billion. The trade surplus stood at $4.6 billion.

The decrease in December exports was mostly due to weakening global trade growth and falling oil prices.

By item, the following goods saw increases in exports: automobiles (up 27.2 percent), ships (up 26.4 percent), and petroleum products (up 8.4 percent). The rest of major export items, however, dropped.

By region, exports to the seven destinations increased: the CIS (up 40.7 percent), the EU (up 22.6 percent), the U.S. (up 22.0 percent), India (up 9.9 percent), ASEAN (up 2.9 percent), Vietnam (up 1.1 percent), and Japan (up 0.7 percent). Those to Central and South America, China, and the Middle East, on the other hand, decreased.

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