Korean companies are confronted with growing trade barriers in overseas markets as major economies toughen import rules amid the eurozone debt crisis and a subsequent global economic slowdown, industry sources said Sunday.
As of the end of July, Korean products were affected by 122 anti-dumping measures, safeguards and other import regulations worldwide, according to the sources and the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
In the first half of this year alone, 16 new complaints involving import regulations were filed against Korean products, a new first-half high.
Concern over foreign trade barriers is escalating amid a steady increase in overseas shipments of electronics products, automobiles and auto parts, with the United States and other major economies moving to regulate imports from Korea.
In late July, the United States slapped an anti-dumping tariff of up to 82 percent on large washing machines for household use.
France recently requested that the European Union open an investigation of allegations that Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor Co. and its smaller affiliate Kia Motor Corp. dumped cars there.
Following the 2008 global economic crisis, South Korea companies have also faced a growing number of nontrade barriers, such as lawsuits involving patents and other intellectual property rights, according to the sources.
In a high-profile case, a U.S. federal jury recommended on Aug. 24 that Samsung pay $1.05 billion in damages to Apple for infringing on six of the iPhone maker's patents. The jury rejected Samsung's counter claims.
On Friday, a U.S. federal judge in Virginia banned South Korea's leading textile maker Kolon Industries Inc. from producing and selling any aramid fibers, a high-strength synthetic fiber, for 20 years, ordering Kolon to pay 1 trillion won in damages to chemical giant DuPont Co.
The spread of protectionism is making a dent in the export-driven economy of South Korea already hit by a nosedive in overseas shipments.
According to a government tally, Korea's exports shrank 6.2 percent on-year to $42.97 billion in August, affected by the global economic slump stemming from the fiscal crisis in Europe.
A report by the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy estimated South Korea's exports could drop an additional 1-1.5 percent if protectionist moves hamper go unresolved.
Experts called on South Korean exporters to ramp up efforts to tide over trade barriers through technological innovation.
"Local exporting companies should inject more money into research and development to turn out innovative products that don't run afoul of major economies' import controls," said Lim Hee-jung, a researcher at Hyundai Research Institute. (Yonhap)