Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Korea Joins Top Ten Exporting Countries, Led by ICT Sector

There has been a great deal of commentary in the local media lately about the performance and goals of South Korean exports. The country has broken into the ranks of the top ten exporting nations in the world, with total exports valued at about U.S. $260 billion. and it has done so during a global economic crisis and with ICT-sector exports leading the way. As reported in the Korea IT Times and other media, it appears that three of the four top spots in Korea's exports this year will be IT products. These are cell phones, semiconductors and display products including digital LCD televisions, which rank, which rank second, third and fourth on the list of Korean exports, following vessels (the shipping industry). The last year that three out of the top four exports came from the ICT sector was 2004.
Perhaps more important than the ranking of these major product categories is their total value, which this year will account for almost 25 percent of all Korean exports. Also, display exports showed a greater percentage increase relative to cell phones and semiconductors. The reasons for the increase in ICT exports are different for each of the sub categories. For example, exports of displays (including television sets) skyrocketed after the introduction early this year of the new LED backlit models. They represented a breakthrough from the older models, being much thinner, lighter weight and lower in energy consumption. In other words, they were a breakthrough technology in the marketplace that made all of the competing products seem old fashioned. On the other hand, the increase in cell phone handsets, while reflecting consumer preferences for Samsung and LG products around the world, was not based on significant increases in the rapidly emerging "smart-phone" segment. This has been the subject of other posts and should be of great concern to Korean exporters. Especially since the worldwide transition in mobile communications is clearly toward hand-held computing and internet devices. It is a transition that will perhaps be more important than the arrival of personal computers three decades ago.

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