What is the economic and political environment for doing business in South Korea?

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October 2015

South Korea is one of Australia’s closest economic and trading partners, and with its high-income economy, there is a strong market for Australia’s high quality goods and services.

Export relationship

  • South Korea is Australia’s fourth largest trading partner and third largest export market
  • Australian merchandise exports to South Korea were worth US$20 billion in 2014
  • Australian investment in Korea is worth one per cent of its total foreign investment portfolio

Economic climate

  • South Korea is the 12th largest economy in the world
  • South Korea has successfully transitioned from a middle-income to a high-income economy over the last 50 years, although income per capita lags behind most other developed nations
  • The country’s historical growth rate has been strong, however in recent years its highly export-facing economy has suffered from lower global demand
  • Confidence among businesses is soft, posing risks to domestic spending
  • The government is undertaking a number of initiatives to address these issues including expansionary fiscal and monetary policies
  • The country will face a number of challenges to economic growth in the long term: an aging population, low productivity growth and a need to re-balance the economy away from exports

Political climate

  • The World Bank ranks South Korea in the top 50 per cent in all areas of governance
  • However, instability in North Korea poses the most significant security threat
  • A free trade agreement signed between South Korea and Australia in April 2014 is expected to make it easier for Australian firms to conduct business in South Korea

Find out more

Find more detailed information about South Korea’s economic and political climate here

72 per cent of [Australian exporters operating in the market] expect business to improve in South Korea, reflecting a very positive outlook on the country – Australian International Business Survey 2015.