Trade to Top $1 Trillion in 5 Years
By Ryu Jin
South Korea's total trade volume with other countries is expected to top $700 billion (645.5 trillion won) this year in continuation of sharp growth rates in recent years, according to government officials and sources at the country's trade association.
As of September, the trade volume exceeded $524.5 billion ― comprising $268.6 billion in exports and $255.9 billion in imports ― according to the sources from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
``We posted a trade surplus of $12.6 billion by the end of the third quarter,'' a ministry official said. ``We expect that the total trade volume could exceed $700 billion by the end of this year if it remains unaffected by unexpected factors.''
Since it first reached $10 billion in 1974, the nation's trade volume has risen drastically to reach landmark points ― $100 billion in 1988, $200 billion in 1995, $300 billion in 2000 and $600 billion in 2006.
In particular, the country entered an era of annual exports of over $300 billion last year for the first time in its trade history. With $325.9 billion in exports and $309.3 billion in imports, the country saw a trade surplus of $16.6 billion in 2006.
In the meantime, the government has also been seeking concrete measures for a mid-term roadmap to the next goal of $1 trillion trade including exports of over $500 billion in the next five years, as the country is witnessing some qualitative problems.
KITA officials, for example, cited the heavy reliance on semiconductors, automobiles and petrochemical products and on the so-called big three markets of China, the United States and Japan as one of several serious problems facing South Korea since 2000.
Unfavorable foreign exchange rates and skyrocketing crude oil prices as well as a reduction in unit cost due to the development of information-technology (IT) were also cited as problems casting a cloud over the country's exports.
Business sectors, together with the government, are urged to make utmost efforts to find new growth engines in the 21st century, while coming up with proper measures to cope with the current challenges, said government officials and industry sources.
Experts also point out that the government should devise measures to address the polarization between small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large conglomerates.
Currently, the SMEs contribute more than 30 percent of the nation's total exports, while large business groups and companies account for almost 70 percent, according to the KITA.