South Korea’s Top 5 Commodity Imports & Exports In One Handy Summary

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Economy of South Korea – Overview

The country of South Korea is currently ranked as the seventh largest export economy in the world, and it enjoys a positive trade balance of $93.7 billion (after deducting annual imports of $389 billion from their export output of $483 billion).

The GDP of South Korea is $1.4 trillion and this equates to a GDP per capita of $35,800.

South Korea is the eleventh largest importer in the world but the total of those exports has been decreasing at an annualized rate of 7.1% over the last five years.

South Korea’s Top 5 Commodity Exports

CommodityAmount (Annual)
Refined Petroleum $24 billion
Silver $1.65 billion
Copper $1.19 billion
Zinc $1.17 billion
Gold $1.05 billion

South Korea’s Other Notable Exports

  1. Integrated Circuits – $49.3 billion
  2. LCD’s – $16.1 billion
  3. Cars – $37.4 billion
  4. Passenger and Cargo Ships – $25.1 billion
  5. Vehicle Parts – $21.7 billion

China is the top export destination for Korean products at 26% ($124 billion), followed by the United States at 14% ($66.7 billion), with the next-largest export destinations being Hong Kong and Vietnam, who both receive 6.8% of South Korea’s annual exports respectively.

South Korea’s Top 5 Commodity Imports

CommodityAmount (Annually)
Crude Petroleum
$44.3 billion
Iron Ore $4.05 billion
Aluminum $2.86 billion
Corn $1.9 billion
Wheat $1.10 billion

South Korea’s Other Notable Imports

  1. Integrated Circuits – $19.8 billion
  2. Telephones – $9.11 billion
  3. Cars – $9.33 billion
  4. Computers – $6.59 billion
  5. Photo Lab Equipment – $5.4 billion

More Information on South Korea’s Commodities

Refined Petroleum

South Korea has a 5.8% market share of the global refined petroleum export market, which is worth a total of $412 billion annually.

China and Singapore are key export destinations, followed by Japan, Australia and the United States.


In the global league table of silver exporting countries, South Korea is in 2nd place, with a 9.2% share of an annual export market that is worth $18.2 billion.

China is the only country that has managed to grow the value of its silver exports in the last five years, with the remaining top fourteen export countries all posting declines during that period.

However, South Korea isn’t one of the countries that have posted a decline of more than 40% in their silver export sales.


Processed copper is the 81st most traded export product and South Korea has a 5.5% share of an annual export market worth $33.8 billion.

China takes 28% of South Korea’s copper exports, followed by the Philippines (12%) and the United States (9.1%).

Tensions between South and North Korea can have an impact on copper prices due to supply problems in the Korean peninsula.


South Korea is the leading country for zinc exports with a 12% share of an annual export market worth $9.93 billion.

India is a key export destination for South Korea’s zinc, taking a 30% share. And Vietnam and China both receive 13% each annually.

Zinc is considered a key resource in the country and there are several major refineries located within their territory.


South Korea exports half of its total gold exports each year to Hong Kong, with a further 20% of the annual total heading for the shores of Japan.

South Korean mining regulators have recently given approval to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australian mining company, Southern Gold (Southern Gold Korea – SGK), to reopen the historic Gubong mine and search for more gold. It had previously been mined for sixty years.

Did you know? South Korea is the leading exporter of special purpose ships with annual exports of $7.73 billion.

A Few Interesting Facts About South Korea

  • Only 3.2% of South Koreans are classed as overweight and Japan is the only other country with the same percentage.
  • All of the microchips used in Apple iPhones are made by South Korean company, Samsung.
  • South Korea is the largest market for plastic surgery per capita in the world.
  • The country enjoys the fastest wireless broadband speeds anywhere. The average download speed of 33.5 megabits per second is almost three times greater than the second-placed nation, Hong Kong.

All figures based on OEC/IMF 2016 projections unless otherwise stated.

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