Major Industries

Amid continued growth of the world's economy and trade, Korea's major industries are maintaining stable growth. Investment in Korea's industries that lead the world's major industries, particulary semiconductor and petrochemistry, will provide opportunities to target the Chinese market, the largest market in the global value chain in Northeast Asia, and reach further out to the global market.


Korea continuously developed semiconductor technology and became the world's first developer of the 64M DRAM and 254M DRAM in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Starting from 1992, semiconductors greatly contributed to Korea's economy as the country's most widely exported product.

Rank of Korean Semiconductor Companies among Global Top 5 (2017)

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Source: IHS Markit (2018)


Korea's crude steel production has reached 71 million tons as of 2017, making Korea the sixth largest steel producer in the world on the back of continued facility expansions and increase in steel demand. Korea's flagship industries are those that consume a large amount of steel, including automotive, shipbuilding, construction and machinery. Thus, Korea is the world's largest consumer of steel since 2006, and plays an important role in securing the competitiveness of Korea's flagship industries.


The automotive industry is a major flagship industry in Korea linked to many other industries from parts and materials to services. Thus, the ripple effect of the automotive industry on the economy as a whole is tremendous. Korea is now the sixth largest car producer in the world, and about 60 to 70 percent of the cars produced in Korea are exported. As Korea's car companies entered overseas markets and exports increased, auto parts companies have also grown. Today, Korea's seven car companies work directly with about 850 first-tier suppliers.

Korean Auto Parts Companies Among Global Top 100 (2017)

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Source: Automotive News (2018)


Up until the mid-1980s, Korea's ethylene production capacity, the indicator used for sizing up the country's petrochemical industry, ranked 18th in the world. Starting from the 1990s, production capacity surged due to the expansion of large-scale facilities following the government's investment liberalization measures. At present, Korea has the fourth largest ethylene production capacity in the world. The Korean petrochemical industry has quickly changed from a typical domestic industry to a leading export industry, and currently exports half of its production overseas.


The Korean shipbuilding industry began in the 1970s when Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries opened its doors, one after another. Then in 1993, Korea surpassed Japan in the largest amount of orders in the world. From the 2000s, Korea has maintained its number one position in the global market for orders, construction and backlogs. Korean shipbuilders mostly have a competitive edge in large merchant ships and luxury merchant ships including large container ships, large tankers, LNG carriers and LPG carriers. (* Merchant ships: cargo ships, ferries, and passenger ships)


Although Korea's display industry has a short history compared to that of other major industries, Korea became the world’s number one for LCDs with the help of government funding for R&D since 1993. It is one of the fastest growing industries in terms of technological developments thanks to the increasing demand for display panels on TVs, monitors, laptops and cell phones. Continued R&D efforts and technological innovation by companies led to the first commercialization of OLED panels in 2007. In 2010, Korea became the first country to produce smartphones with OLED displays, maintaining its top rank in the global display industry.

Top Five Largest Market Shares in LCD Panels over 50 inches (2018 Q1)

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Source: IHS Markit (2018)


The Korean ICT industry has developed around mobile phones and core components (mobile semiconductors, displays, etc.), as well as telecommunication services. In particular, Korea has made remarkable achievements as the world's first nation to commercialize CDMA, LTE-A and broadband LTE-A, and played a pivotal role in driving Korea's economic growth. In addition, Korea is considered a global ICT powerhouse with the highest broadband internet penetration rate in the world, the world's largest e-government, the world's best ICT development index and the fastest internet in the world. To add, the public sector is working closely with private companies to make Korea the first country in the world to commercialize 5G.

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