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South Korea

Textiles and Footwear

Textiles, clothing, and leather products made up about 24 percent of South Korea's manufacturing output in 1980. Over 10,000 textile and footwear enterprises employed more than four workers each, and 34,000 smaller shops manufactured such products in 1978. Throughout the 1980s, textiles played a critical role in Seoul's exports, accounting for US$11.9 billion, or 19.6 percent of total export earnings. In 1989 the export of textiles (valued at US$15,340 million) grew 8.5 percent over the 1988 level. Textile manufacturers, concerned about diminishing export competitiveness because of wage increases and won revaluation, expanded their overseas investments in 1987 and 1988. Seoul approved sixty-six investment projects totaling US$38.4 million from January 1, 1978, through the end of September 1988. Most of these investments were located in the Caribbean Basin region and Southeast Asia. Upgrading product lines---particularly towards high fashion--and further shifting to the expanding domestic market were expected to cause slow growth in the industry in the early 1990s.

South Korea's footwear industry also expanded in the late 1980s. Footwear exports in 1988 totaled US$3.8 billion, a 34.7 percent increase over 1987, 6.3 percent of Seoul's total exports by value. Economic forecasters, however, predicted that the industry would decline in the 1990s despite the surge of orders in 1989; they attributed the 1989 surge to political unrest in China, normally a major producer of footwear.

Data as of June 1990