Korean home electronics companies managed to maintain their dominant position in the U.S. washing machine market last year despite import restrictions, but washer exports from Korea returned to the level of 15 years ago. On the other hand, Korea’s washer imports reached a record high.
Last year, Korea's washer exports fell 38.3 percent year on year to US$656.38 million (about 739 billion won), said the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) on Feb. 18. The figure is smaller than US$727.42 million set in 2003 and represents a drop of more than 60 percent from 2011 when Korea’s washer exports peaked at US$1.73 billion.
By contrast, Korea’s imports of washing machines grew steadily and reached a record high last year. In 2018, washer imports totaled US$344.42 million, recording an increase of 30.3 percent over the previous year. The figure was 21 times more than imports of US$16.1 million in 2000.
Korean home electronics companies ramped up overseas washer production due to import regulations in major markets such as the United States, and labor cost burdens. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are producing washing machines in the United States, China and Thailand. Imports of washing machines produced in Thailand and Vietnam increased by 98 percent and 21 percent, respectively, to US$125.04 million and US$108.18 million last year, respectively. Despite the U.S. government's safeguard in 2018, Korean washer makers kept a 40 percent share the U.S. market thanks to the expansion of overseas production.
As the proportion of Korean companies’ overseas production of household appliances including washing machines is expected to further rise, it may lead to a steady decline in Korea’s washer exports and a drop in employment in Korea.