Market Information > Market Overview
South Korea has the 12th largest economy in the world with a GDP of $1.6 trillion and a per capita GNI of $32,047 in 2019. It is about the size of Indiana and has a population of 52 million. Over 90 percent of Koreans live in urban areas. Domestic production meets only 45 percent of food demand. The United States exported $8.9 billion in agricultural products to Korea in 2019, making it our fifth largest export market. The U.S. supplies a quarter of Korea's agricultural imports.
Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products
Korea imported $14.7 billion in consumer oriented products in 2019, accounting for 41 percent of agricultural imports. There are still many opportunities for U.S. export growth in this segment, including for beef, pork, fruits, tree nuts, dairy products, confectioneries, beverages, and further prepared foods.
Food Processing Industry
Korean retail food sales totaled $95.3 billion in 2018, accounting for 26 percent of total retail sales. Grocery supermarkets are the leading food retail channel, followed by hypermarket discount stores, convenience stores, on-line retailers, and department stores. On-line retailers and convenience store food sales are expected to grow faster than other channels over the next 5-10 years. The fast expansion of on-line retailers is forcing conventional retail channels to restructure space and devise new strategies to attract consumer traffic.
Quick Facts CY 2019
Imports of Ag. Products from the World
Top 10 Consumer-Oriented Ag. Imports
Beef ($2.9 billion), pork ($1.6 billion), frozen fish ($1.3 billion), fresh fruits ($1.2 billion), dairy ($958 million), alcoholic beverages ($788 million), coffee ($662 million), tree nuts ($354 million), bakeries ($340 million), chocolate confectioneries ($328 million)
Top 10 Growth Consumer-Oriented Ag. Imports
Animal offal, mineral water, food preparations not-elsewhere-specified, butter, vinegar, grapes, poultry meat, beef, roasted prepared foods, melons & papayas
Food Industry by Channels (2018)
Top Korean Retailers
EMART, LOTTE Mart, HOME PLUS, COSTCO, GS Retail (GS Super, GS25), BGF Retail (CU), Korea Seven, E Land Retail, Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, Hyundai Department Store, Hanwha Galleria, CJ O Shopping, GS Home Shopping, Coupang, SK Planet, Ebay Korea
Population: 52 million
GDP: US $1.6 trillion
GDP per capita: US $32,047
|Well established market with modern distribution channels||High logistics costs to ship U.S. products|
|Consumer income level continues to increase||Consumers have limited understanding of U.S. products|
|Strong consumer demand for value, quality, and diversity||Strong competition from other exporting countries|
|KORUS FTA reduces tariff barriers for U.S. products.||Discrepancies in food safety and labeling regulations|
Data and Information Sources:
Korea Ministry of Food & Drug Safety, Korea National Statistics Office, Korea Int'l Trade Association, Trade Data Monitor, CIA Factbook
Contact: U.S. Agricultural Trade Office Seoul
For more detailed information about the Korean market see the Exporter Guide 2019.