South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established dialogue relations in 1989. Since then, the size of their bilateral trade has increased almost 20-fold and Vietnam has become South Korea’s fourth-largest trade partner behind China, the United States and Japan.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korea International Trade Association announced on Nov. 24 that South Korea’s exports to and imports from the 10 member states of the ASEAN added up to US$80,012 million and US$47,409 million for the first 10 months of this year, respectively. The exports, imports and trade surplus decreased 2.8 percent, decreased 4.7 percent and increased 0.1 percent from a year ago, respectively.
The first trade between South Korea and the ASEAN was two decades ago. At that time, South Korea’s exports to the ASEAN were US$3,992 million and its imports from the region were US$4,192 million. In other words, the bilateral trade volume increased about 20-fold in 20 years.
The trade between South Korea and Vietnam in particular showed a very rapid growth. 20 years ago, South Korea’s exports to and imports from Vietnam were US$45 million and US$41 million. The figures soared to US$48,622 million and US$19,643 million last year. From January to October this year, South Korea’s trade surplus with Vietnam was US$22,302 million. For reference, South Korea’s trade surplus with China was US$22,854 million during the same period.
At present, South Korea’s top 10 trade partners include four ASEAN member states. The four countries are Vietnam (third, 8.9 percent), India (seventh, 2.9 percent), Singapore (eighth, 2.4 percent) and Malaysia (10th, 1.7 percent). The ratio of South Korea’s trade with the ASEAN to its total trade rose from 9.7 percent to 14 percent from 2006 to 2018.
South Korea’s investment in the ASEAN region continued to increase, too. In addition, the number of South Korean companies in the region increased from 850 to 1,292 from 2014 to last year, when the region emerged as South Korea’s third-largest investment destination.