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Korea Maintains Top Position in 8 Products, Services
Precarious Lead
Korea Maintains Top Position in 8 Products, Services
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • July 7, 2015, 09:45
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The Gangnam district of Seoul at night.
The Gangnam district of Seoul at night.


Eight Korean items occupied the top spot last year in the global markets for 50 major products and services. Even though the number of export items occupying a top ranking position in world markets increased in 2014 compared to 2013, the gap with China and Japan in major items like smartphones is narrowing.

A total of eight locally-made products and services held the top spot in world markets, including shipbuilding, smartphones, small and mid-sized LCD panels, and lithium-ion batteries, according to a report on the share of global markets for major products and services in 2014 published by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun on July 5. The nation additionally nabbed the top position in shipbuilding and small and mid-sized LCD panels last year, an increase of two items from 2013. Out of 50 items, the U.S. ranked first with 16 items, and 10 items were from Europe. The number for Japan was 9, one more than Korea’s rank, while China had 6 top-ranked products and services. The U.S. and Japan saw the number decrease by two items compared to the previous year, but China maintained the previous year's level.

Data shows that Korea's position in the global market is strengthened, but some of the locally-made products and services are likely to lose the number one position in the market within years. 

In the case of smartphones, the market share of Samsung Electronics (24.5 percent) and Apple (14.8 percent) both declined by a small margin, but Chinese companies are closely following the two dominant players. Specifically, Lenovo, the third-largest handset maker, comprised 7.2 percent, a year-on-year growth of 2.7 percent. Huawei, which was in 4rd place, captured 5.7 percent of the global smartphone market in 2014, up 0.9 percent from a year ago. Samsung's share has continued to drop, after the number exceeded 30 percent in 2013, which was its best year.

As for lithium-ion batteries, Samsung SDI is maintaining its iron-fisted grip on the market, but it is chased by Panasonic's electric cars. According to market research firm B3, Samsung SDI, LG Chem, and Panasonic account for around 70 percent of the lithium-ion battery market. Among those companies, the Japanese firm is jointly conducting a project to build the Gigafactory, a US$5 billion structure aimed at annually producing 500,000 lithium-ion batteries by 2020 in partnership with Tesla Motors.

When it comes to large LCD panels for TVs, Chinese display makers are highly likely to snatch the top spot from their Korean rivals in the market, as the former is greatly increasing the supply of panels to meet domestic demand. The Korea Display Industry Association said that the weight of Chinese LCD panels for TVs approached 40 percent last year, and the number will surpass 50 percent this year.

Although the nation reclaimed the top position in the global shipbuilding market in 2013, competition with China and Japan is still intense. But the good news is that LG Display constituted 18.1 percent of the small and mid-sized LCD panel market, which placed the firm in the number one position, beating Japan Display (16.0 percent) and Sharp (15.6 percent).