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This page contains information about Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy (2007-2013). To learn about Canada’s new trade plan, visit Global Markets Action Plan.

Korea, Republic of

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Seoul, Korea

Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the world economy. Today Korea is a highly diversified economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of about $951 billion dollars and a GDP per capita of $19,513. Living standards and education levels have risen and are now equivalent to or higher than those in industrialized western economies. Private consumption and exports of goods and services continue to be the key drivers of Korea’s economic growth. Korea is at the centre of northeast Asian global value chains and is a trading partner of many countries around the world. For example, Korea’s rise as a world leader in semiconductors (e.g. RAM and flash memory), digital displays (e.g. LCD and plasma panels) and other consumer electronics has been spectacular. Korean flagship companies like Samsung and LG have become household names around the world. The Korean government is now beginning to invest in industries ranging from aerospace, biotechnologies, clean technologies and robotics to financial services and entertainment. Businesses that succeed in Korea typically do so because they have a unique niche offering, can outperform competitors on quality, speed, price, reliability or service and have superior customer relationships.

Like other Asian economies, Korea has been strongly affected by the 2008/09 global economic downturn. The Korean economy started to contract in the fourth quarter of 2008, primarily due to a drop in manufacturing, and a decline in construction. In 2009, the Korean GDP increased by 0.2%, as growth resumed in the second half of he year. A rise in consumption and exports so far in 2010 have accelerated South Korea’s recovery., and good growth is anticipated for the year. While South Korea is experiencing one of the strongest recoveries among the OECD economies, further development will strongly depend on the course of government support measures.

Commercial Relations

  • Canada’s bilateral merchandise trade with Korea was almost $9.5 billion in 2009.
  • In 2009, Canada’s merchandise exports to Korea were $3.5 billion, while Canadian imports from Korea were $5.9 billion.
  • Canadian direct investment in Korea is valued at $921 million. Particular opportunites for Canadian direct investment in Korea exist in the automotive, clean technologies and service industries.
  • Direct investment from Korea in Canada was $2.7 billion at the end of 2009.
  • Canada-Korea trade in services reached almost $1.2 billion in 2007.

Market Opportunities

The Government of Canada has identified Korea as a Global Commerce Strategy priority market—based on extensive consultation with government, academic and Canadian business and industry representatives—and has developed a comprehensive Market Plan that identifies the following sectors as offering clear market opportunities well suited to Canadian capabilities and interests in the region:

  • Agriculture, Food and Beverages: Korea is an important market for Canadian producers. In 2009, Canada exported agriculture and agri-food products worth more than $396.4 million to Korea.
  • Education: Korea’s education market represents a significant opportunity for Canada. Koreans are committed to investing in education in terms of both time and resources. Canada is a competitive education provider for Korea, attracting 27,000 Korean foreign students who injected $850 million into the Canadian economy in 2008.
  • Environmental Industries - Renewable Energy and Green Technologies: The market has been growing at a steady pace, with annual growth rates of more than 10%. The value of the market was estimated at over $35 billion in 2009, of which approximately 10% of the market was supplied by imported goods and services. In 2009, the Korean government announced its "Five-year Plan for Green Growth". It is based on a budget of 2% of Korea’s annual GDP (USD 88 billion) to be invested in environment-related industries over the next five years, pushing stricter fuel efficiency and emission requirements.
  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Korea is a prominent global supplier of ICT products including mobile handsets, optical devices and components and video games, providing Canadian companies with exciting market possibilities.
  • Mining and Minerals: Rising raw materials prices and increasing supply challenges have increased Korea’s appetite to invest in exploration and development projects around the world.

Canada-Korea Commercial Relations, 2005-2009

Text Alternative: Canada-Korea Commercial Relations
Canada-Korea Commercial Relations, 2005-2009
 Canadian Merchandise ExportsCanadian Merchandise ImportsCanadian Direct Investment Abroad (CDIA)Foreign Direct Investment in Canada (FDI)

Government Leadership and Support

Canada is currently engaged in free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with South Korea. A successful conclusion would deliver significant commercial benefits across a wide range of sectors of the Canadian economy—from agriculture to high-tech services—and expand opportunities for Canadian companies to capitalize on Korea’s strong place in supply chains that span Asia and the globe. As the FTA talks proceed, Canada’s Trade Commissioners in Korea continue to focus on promoting opportunities for greater bilateral trade in goods and services; facilitating investment in Korea by Canadian stakeholders; positioning Canada as a destination of choice for Korean investors; furthering science and technology and innovation partnerships with Korea’s many advanced-technology companies, and helping more Canadian companies successfully enter the market.

Market Access

Canada has a number of bilateral trade and investment policy instruments in place that are helping to facilitate and support Canadian commercial engagement in Korea:


  • Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiations (ongoing)


  • Canada-Korea Air Transport Agreement (administratively in effect; not ratified)


  • Renewal of the Canada-Korea Science and Technology Arrangement

Unless otherwise stated, all data is for 2009 and expressed in Canadian dollars. All data based on latest available national statistics drawn from a variety of sources, including Statistics Canada, Export Development Canada, Bank of Canada, IMF WEO and UNCTAD.

For further information, visit the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website or contact the Trade Commissioner Service at 1-888-306-9991.


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Fast Facts

  • Capital: Seoul
  • Total Area: 99,434 km²
  • Population: 48.7 million
  • Language(s): Korean
  • Type of Government: Presidential republic
  • GDP: $951.4 billion
  • Per capita GDP: $19,513
  • Main Export Destinations: China, United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Main Import Sources: China, Japan, United States, Saudi Arabia and Australia
  • Main Exports: Electric and electronic equipment, Ships and boats, Machinery, Motor vehicles, and scientific and precision instruments
  • Main Imports: Mineral fuels and oils, Electrical and electronic equipment, Machinery, Iron and steel, Scientific and precision instruments.
  • Main Canadian Exports (millions): Mineral fuels and oils ($1.1 billion), Machinery ($406.5), Mineral ores ($253.4), Aluminum & products ($251.2), Wood pulp ($234.9)
  • Main Canadian Imports (millions): Motor vehicles ($1.9 billion), Electrical and electronic equipment ($1.7 billion), Machinery ($819.2), Mineral fuels and oils ($289.9), Iron and steel ($192.9)
  • Currency:C$1=1,117.318 won (KRW)

The Canada Trade Commissioner Service

  • Seoul

    16-1, Jeong-dong, Jung-gu, CPO Box 6299
    Seoul, 100-662, Republic of Korea
    Tel: (011-82-2) 3783-6000
    Fax: (011-82-2) 3783-6147/ 3783-6115