Issues & Answers

Korea's Economy

About Korea's Economy
Population: 51 million (May 2013)
GDP: $1.67 trillion, ranking Korea the world’s 12th largest economy (2013)*
GDP Growth Rate: 2.8% (2013)*
World Merchandise Trade: Ranked 7th and 9th, respectively, among leading exporters and importers (2012)
Ease of Doing Business: Ranked 8 out of 183 economies (The World Bank, 2012)

Sources: The World Bank, Ministry of Security and Public Administration, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund

*projected figure


Over the past several decades, Korea has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. From the early 1960s through the late 1990s, Korea had one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Today, Korea is the 12th largest economy in the world and the United States' sixth largest trading partner.

Sustaining Korea's economic growth are key industries that have garnered recognition in the global arena. Korea is the world's leading producer of displays and memory semiconductors. Also, it is the second-largest shipbuilding nation in the world. Meanwhile, it ranks second in terms of mobile phones, and fifth and sixth in automobiles and steel, respectively.

The Korean economy is heavily dependent on international trade. In 2013, Korea was the seventh largest exporter and ninth largest importer in the world.

As one of the G-20 major economies, Korea has emerged as a success story in many ways. Much like other countries, the Korean economy has been affected by the global economic downturn. Although the won lost nearly one-third of its value in 2008, the Director of the IMF's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific predicted that Korea would recover quickly due to its 'improved economic fundamentals.'

In 2010, Korea hosted the G20 summit, boosting the country's image. The summit marked the first time for a non-G8 or Asian country to host the conference, and Korea played a key role as the chair of the summit, proposing the "Korea Initiative" and contributing to the substantial agreements. The summit showed Korea's diplomatic ability and leadership as it served as a bridge between advanced and developing countries, and played a leading role in the creation of a new international order.



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