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

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In this economic guide to South Korea we’ll give you an overview of the South Korean economy, including the country’s primary imports and exports of goods and services, as well as their primary destinations.

Economy of South Korea – Overview

The country of South Korea is currently ranked as the 5th largest export economy in the world, and it enjoys a positive trade balance of $107 billion (after deducting annual imports of $509 billion from their export output of $617B billion).

Map of South Korea
Map of South Korea via Wikimedia (public domain)

South Korea’s GDP

The GDP of South Korea is $1.6 trillion and this equates to a GDP per capita of $31,363.

South Korea is the 10th largest importer in the world with an increase of $12.6 billion over the most recent five reported years (from $497 billion in 2013 to $509 billion in 2018)

South Korea’s Top 5 Commodity Exports

  1. Refined Petroleum – $43.6 billion
  2. Coated Flat-Rolled Iron – $6.5 billion
  3. Hot-Rolled Iron – $5.3 billion
  4. Raw Zinc – $1.8 billion
  5. Other Iron Products – $1.8 billion

Other Notable South Korean Exports

  • Integrated Circuits – $113.1 billion
  • Cars – $38.7 billion
  • Vehicle Parts – $19.0 billion
  • Office Machine Parts – $18.8 billion
  • Passenger and Cargo Ships – $15.8 billion

China is the top export destination for Korean products at 26% ($160 billion), followed by the United States at 12% ($73 billion).

Rounding out the top five export destinations are Vietnam ($49 billion), Hong Kong ($45 billion), and Japan ($31 billion).

South Korea’s Top 5 Commodity Imports

  1. Crude Petroleum – $74.8 billion
  2. Petroleum Gas – $23.0 billion
  3. Refined Petroleum – $20.2 billion
  4. Coal Briquettes – $14.1 billion
  5. Iron Ore – $4.6 billion

South Korea’s Other Notable Imports

  • Integrated Circuits – $32.0 billion
  • Photo Lab Equipment – $11.8 billion
  • Cars – $11.2 billion
  • Broadcasting Equipment – $8.8 billion
  • Office Machine Parts – $7.4 billion

South Korea primarily imports from China ($107 billion), the United States ($55.8 billion), Japan ($51.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($23.5 billion), and Germany ($20.4 billion).

Details About South Korea’s Commodities

Here we provide more analysis of South Korea’s trading products.

Refined Petroleum

South Korea is the 5th largest exporter of refined petroleum, garnering a 5.8% market share of the global export market, which is worth a total of $753 billion annually.

China and Japan are the top export destinations, taking delivery of $7.8 billion and $5 billion, respectively. Rounding out the top 5 destinations are Chinese Taipei, Australia, and Singapore.


Globally, South Korea is the 5th largest exporter of silver, with a 7.5% share of an annual export market that is worth $18.3 billion.

South Korea’s silver primarily goes to Japan ($733 million), Hong Kong ($239 million), Thailand ($91 million), the United States ($76.4 million), and Canada ($66.9 million)

The fastest-growing destinations for South Korean silver are India, Thailand, and Nepal.


Refined copper nets South Korea $1.6 billion in yearly exports. Korea is the 11th largest exporter of this commodity, which accounts for $67 billion global exports yearly.

China takes 55% of South Korea’s copper exports, followed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan.

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 raw zinc exports with an 11% share of an annual export market worth $17.2 billion.

India and China are key export destinations for South Korea’s zinc, splitting evenly a 44.2% share. Declining markets for Korean zinc include Bangladesh, Chinese Taipei, and Japan.

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

Did you know? South Korea is the leading exporter of special purpose ships with annual exports of $7.4 billion.

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 2018 calculations and projections unless otherwise stated.

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