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South Korea Table of Contents

South Korea


General Character: Export oriented although domestic market increasing source of growth in late 1980s; real growth 12.5 percent 1986-88; 6.5 percent, 1989. Dominated by chaebol, or business conglomerates. Most industries, except mining, in urban areas of northwest and southeast. Heavy industry generally in south. World's tenth largest steel producer in 1989. Major electronics producer. Automobiles and automotive parts major domestic growth and export industry of 1980s. Armaments also manufactured for domestic use and export. Construction critical source of foreign currency and invisible export earnings. Textiles, clothing, and leather products important. Growing labor movement affects production and costs.

Gross National Product (GNP): In 1989 US$204 billion, US$4,830 per capita, 6.5 percent annual growth rate.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$211.9 billion at market prices, 1989; real annual growth 6.1 percent. Average growth 6.1 percent 1986-90; high, 12.4 percent in 1986; low, 6.1 percent in 1989.

Industry: Main growth sector, produced 46 percent of GDP and employed 35 percent of work force in 1988.

Resources: Peninsula has minimal resources. Mineral deposits mostly small, except for tungsten. Anthracite coal most important mineral product by volume and value, but also imported. Most energy needs met by nuclear power, coal, and crude petroleum imports.

Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing: Employed approximately 21 percent of work force in 1989; generated 10.2 percent of GDP. Relative importance declining since mid-1960s; production grew 5.9 percent in first half of 1989. Major crops rice and barley, also millet, corn, sorghum, buckwheat, soybeans, and potatoes. Fishery products popular food and important export commodity. Inadequate forestry resources.

Foreign Trade: Annual trade in 1988 more than US$100 billion; first time world's tenth largest trading nation. Major trading partners United States and Japan. Main exports textiles, clothing, electronic and electrical equipment, footwear, machinery, steel, ships, automobiles and automotive parts, rubber tires and tubes, plywood, and fishery products. Main imports machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, petroleum and petroleum products, steel, grains, transport equipment, raw materials, chemicals, machinery, timber and pulp, raw cotton, and cereals. Balance of payments affected by oil imports and raw materials needs; surplus of US$4.6 billion in 1989, but deficit of US$1.9 billion, 1990.

Currency and Exchange Rate: January 1990, US$1=683.4 won (W).

Fiscal Year: January 1 through December 31.

Data as of June 1990