Overview In 2021, South Korea was the number 11 economy in the world in terms of GDP (current US$), the number 5 in total exports, the number 9 in total imports, the number 38 economy in terms of GDP per capita (current US$) and the number 4 most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) .

Exports The top exports of South Korea are Integrated Circuits ($116B), Cars ($44.7B), Refined Petroleum ($36.4B), Motor vehicles; parts and accessories (8701 to 8705) ($19.3B), and Office Machine Parts ($18B), exporting mostly to China ($158B), United States ($95.9B), Vietnam ($56.5B), Hong Kong ($38.2B), and Japan ($30.1B).

In 2021, South Korea was the world's biggest exporter of Passenger and Cargo Ships ($17.7B), Blank Audio Media ($10.8B), Cyclic Hydrocarbons ($8.62B), Special Purpose Ships ($4.92B), and Styrene Polymers ($4.65B)

Imports The top imports of South Korea are Crude Petroleum ($60.6B), Integrated Circuits ($47.4B), Petroleum Gas ($24.5B), Refined Petroleum ($24.3B), and Photo Lab Equipment ($16.6B), importing mostly from China ($140B), United States ($66.4B), Japan ($51.1B), Australia ($29.4B), and Vietnam ($22.6B).

In 2021, South Korea was the world's biggest importer of Inorganic Salts ($1.06B), Nitrile Compounds ($793M), Molybdenum Ore ($743M), Starch Residue ($562M), and Furskin Apparel ($287M)

Location South Korea borders North Korea by land and China and Japan by sea.

Latest Trends

December, 2023

Historical Data

Yearly Trade

Top Export (2021)Integrated Circuits$116B
Top Destination (2021)China$158B

In 2021, South Korea exported a total of $653B, making it the number 5 exporter in the world. During the last five reported years the exports of South Korea have changed by $148B from $505B in 2016 to $653B in 2021.

The most recent exports are led by Integrated Circuits ($116B), Cars ($44.7B), Refined Petroleum ($36.4B), Motor vehicles; parts and accessories (8701 to 8705) ($19.3B), and Office Machine Parts ($18B). The most common destination for the exports of South Korea are China ($158B), United States ($95.9B), Vietnam ($56.5B), Hong Kong ($38.2B), and Japan ($30.1B).

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Exports (2021)
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Destinations (2021)
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Market Growth

Fastest Growing Export Markets (2020 - 2021)
China$26.3B (+ 20%)
United States$20.9B (+ 27.9%)
Vietnam$8.51B (+ 17.7%)
Fastest Growing Import Markets (2020 - 2021)
China$30.9B (+ 28.3%)
United States$12.9B (+ 24%)
Australia$12.3B (+ 71.7%)

Total Export Growth by Market (2020 - 2021)

Service Trade

Service Trade

South Korea Exports Services (2018)$96.3B
South Korea Imports Services (2018)$118B

In 2018, South Korea exported $96.3B worth of services. The top services exported by South Korea in 2018 were Transportation ($27.7B), Other business services ($21.7B), Travel ($15.3B), Construction services ($12.7B), and Royalties and license fees ($7.75B).

The top services imported by South Korea in 2018 were Other business services ($32.9B), Transportation ($32.1B), Travel ($32B), Royalties and license fees ($9.88B), and Construction services ($3.27B).

Service Exports (2018)

Service Imports (2018)

Economic Complexity


Economic Complexity (Trade)1.82Rank 4 of 131
Economic Complexity (Technology)0.73Rank 32 of 96
Economic Complexity (Research)0.31Rank 42 of 140

Most Specialized Products by RCA Index

South Korea has a high level of specialization in Oxometallic or Peroxometallic Acid Salts (12.2), Halides (8.19), Passenger and Cargo Ships (7.71), Cast or Rolled Glass (7.49), and Special Purpose Ships (6.7). Specialization is measured using RCA, an index that takes the ratio between South Korea observed and expected exports in each product.

Export Opportunities by Relatedness

The top export opportunities for South Korea according to the relatedness index, were Incomplete Movement Sets (0.29), Watch Movements (0.29), Mirrors and Lenses (0.28), Signaling Glassware (0.28), and Sulfur (0.28). Relatedness measures the distance between a country's current exports and each product. The barchart show only products that South Korea is not specialized in.

Product Space

The product space is a network connecting products that are likely to be co-exported. The product space can be used to predict future exports, since countries are more likely to start exporting products that are related to current exports. Relatedness measures the distance between a product, and all of the products a country currently specializes in.

Relatedness Space

This network shows the products most related to the production structure of South Korea. These are products that tend to be co-exported with the products that South Korea exports. Higher relatedness values ​​indicate greater knowledge, which predicts a greater probability of exporting that product in the future.

Diversification Frontier


The Complexity-Relatedness diagram compares the risk vs strategic value of a country's potential export oppotunities. Relatedness is predictive of the probability that a country increases its exports in a product. Complexity, is associated with higher levels of income, economic growth, less income inequality, and lower greenhouse emissions.

Economic Complexity Ranking


During the last 20 years South Korea's⁩ ⁨economy has become relatively more complex, moving from the ⁩⁨25th to the 4th⁩ position in the ECI rank.

These economic complexity rankings use 6 digit exports classified according to the HS96 classification. We consider only countries with population of at least 1 million and exports of at least $1 billion, and products with world trade over $500 million. To explore different rankings and vary these parameters visit the custom rankings section.

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ECI (Trade) Ranking by Country

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