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Korean Exports Set to Top $300B Mark

Posted December. 06, 2006 06:57,   


According to an announcement made by the Korea International Trade Association on December 5, “Up to December 4, Korea’s exports this year reached $299.03 billion. Considering that daily exports are about $1.18 billion on average, cumulative exports as of December 5 are estimated to be about $300.2 billion.”

In order to celebrate passing the $300 billion milestone in exports, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and KITA had a lightening ceremony of an “export tower,” at six in the evening at COEX, with more than a hundred guests from the export business.

Available data on Korean exports dates up to 1948 when the government was established. Korea’s exports in that year were 19 million dollars. The scale of exports was about half of that of Cameroon, and in terms of ranking, the amount was out of world’s top 100. Among the main export items were dried fish such as squid, tungsten, and anthracite.

Korean exports began to rise steeply in the 1960s. After coming to power through the May 16 military coup, Park Chung-hee regime aimed at getting out of poverty via exports, instead of import substitution.

Although he might be a controversial figure in the political realm, when it comes to economics, it is safe to say that he has done more right than wrong. During this period, numerous entrepreneurs, laborers, and governmental bureaucrats spent many sleepless nights in and out of Korea working in export businesses.

From squid to semiconductors-

In Korean export history, 1964 was an important year. The “Korean Trade History,” published by KITA on the 30th last month to celebrate the Day of Trading, picked reaching $100 million in exports as the most important news.

According to the book, the $100 million mark “stimulated the nation’s interest and potential capability, thereby serving as the launch pad for future prosperity in national exports.” Top-rated export items around this period were wigs and veneer boards.

In the 1970s and 1980s, apparel and shoes were Korea’s main exports. Since the 1990s, Korea has put emphasis on high-tech products such as automobiles, semiconductors and cell phones and finally has reached 300 billion dollars in annual exports.

Still a long way to go-

There have been only 10 countries that reached this $300 billion milestone: the U.S., Germany, Japan, France, China, Great Britain, Netherlands, Italy, Canada and Belgium.

With the sole exception of China, GNP per capita is above 25,000 dollars in all of these countries, and it is over 30,000 in eight of them. This demonstrates that countries that pass this milestone in exports are leaders in trading, well equipped with technology and overall competitiveness.

However, Korean exports still face many challenges.

Korean entrepreneurs are demoralized to a great extent. Their anxiety has been intensified as the exchange rates vis-à-vis U.S. dollars and Japanese yen plummet. It is also problematic that increased exports are not connected to increasing employment, and that small and medium-sized enterprises are playing an increasingly smaller role than before in exports.

Trading has been one of the main pillars supporting the nation. And the contribution of those engaged in the trade business is likely to stay important for the state’s future as it has been thus far.