South Korea and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) established dialogue relations in 1989. Since then, the size of their bilateral trade has increased almost 20-fold and Vietnam has become the fourth-largest trade partner with South Korea, just behind China, United States and Japan.
According to Business Korea, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korea International Trade Association announced on November 24, 2019 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 trade between Vietnam and South Korea 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 in 2018. From January to October 2019, South Korea’s trade surplus with Vietnam was US$22,302 million.
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 to 14 percent from 9.7 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 to 1,292 from 850 since 2014 to 2018, when the region emerged as South Korea’s third-largest investment destination.