South Korea Industry Sectors

April 9, 2010South Koreaby EconomyWatch


As the world's 12th largest economy with a GDP (PPP) of US$1.459 trillion in 2010, South Korea has experienced huge economic growths from early 1960s to 1990s. Along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, they are termed the Asian Tigers. Development in the industrial and manufacturing industries attributes to the growth of South Korea's economy and is the major growth engine for its export-orientated economy.

Over the years of economic progress, South Korea has transformed its economy from one which is labour intensive to one which is more capital and technology-orientated. Today, South Korea boasts as one of the top players in the electronics, automobile, telecommunication and shipbuilding industries.

South Korea's Industry Sector

South Korea's agriculture contributes only 3 percent of the nation's total GDP in 2010, and employs 7.3 percent of the country's workforce. The agriculture in South Korea has shrunk significantly as the nation moves towards the urbanization and industrialization of the economy. Back in 1987, agricultural made up 12.3 percent of the nation's total GDP, and employs 21 percent of the workforce.

Rice is the most important agriculture crop of South Korea. It made up 90 percent of the total grain production, and supplies over 40 percent of the farmers' income. However, rising farmers' wages and land values have made rice costly to produce.  With 16.58 percent o arable land, South Korea's agriculture is also responsible for the production of crops such as barley, vegetables, fruits and production of cattle, pigs, chicken, milk, eggs and fish.

The industry of South Korea contributes 39.4 percent of the country's GDP in 2010. The industry and manufacturing industries are the major growth engine for South Korea during its economic progress in the 1980s. South Korea's largest industries are electronics, automobiles, telecommunication and shipbuilding.

Electronics boosted the South Korean economy in the 1980s, by becoming the world's sixth largest manufacturer of electronic goods such as color televisions, microwave ovens, radio, watches and personal computers. . South Korea is also a major manufacturer of semiconductors, with Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor the global leaders in the production of memory chips.

The automotive industry also plays a major role in the South Korean economy today. It has grown into one of world's largest automobile producers, coming in 5th after the United States and Germany, with an estimate of 4.27 million automobile produced a year. Some of South Korea's international automobile brands include Hyundai, Kia and Renault.

From a slow start of two million subscribers to a current high of 40 million, mobile telephone is the fastest growing area in telecom, going beyond the 20 million fixed lines serving a 40 million-strong population.Today, South Korea also has the highest number of broadband users in the world. The presence of one of the fastest broadband networks in the world also permits e-commerce to grow.

South Korea is a global player in the production of ships, with a 50.6 percent share of the global shipbuilding market in 2008. Four of the world's largest shipbuilding companies are from South Korea: Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding. Europe's largest shipbuilder, STX Europe, is also owned by South Korea.
Services in South Korea contributes 57.6 percent of the nation's total GDP, and employs 68.4 percent of the workforce. The government shifts its focus from manufacturing to services in 2009, and experts predict that the services will be the driving force of South Korea's economy for the next few years, as current productivity level is just at 58 percent of that in manufacturing.


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