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Market Overview

Executive Summary

South Korea has the 13th largest economy in the world with a GDP of $1.71 trillion and a per capita GNI of $33,127 in 2023. It is about the size of Indiana and has a population of 51.6 million. Over 80 percent of Koreans live in urban areas. Domestic production meets only 46 percent of food demand. The United States exported $8.8 billion in agricultural and related products to Korea in 2023, making it our fifth largest export market. The U.S. supplies a quarter of Korea's agricultural imports

Imports of Consumer-Oriented Products

In 2023, Korea imported consumer-oriented agricultural products totaling around $20.1 billion. 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

In 2022, Korea had over 31,470 food processing companies, which generated $63.3 billion in sales. Korean food processing companies rely heavily on imported commodities and ingredients. Imports of basic and intermediate agricultural products totaled $18.2 billion in 2023. Fifteen percent ($2.7 billion) of these imports came from the United States.

Food Retail Industry

Korean retail food sales totaled $137 billion in 2023, accounting for 31 percent of total retail sales (excluding automobiles). Grocery supermarkets were the leading food retail channel, followed by on-line retailers, hypermarket discount stores, convenience stores, and department stores. Recent years, e-commerce only companies have taken leadership of the Korean food retail market from large offline-based distributors. Out of the total online sales of Korea in 2023, food related online sales including food, agricultural products, and food delivery services became the largest category sold online occupying about percent.

Quick Facts CY 2023

Imports of Ag. Products from the World

  • Basic Products US$8.2 billion
  • Intermediate Products US$9.2 billion
  • Consumer-Oriented Products US$20.1 billion
  • Forest Products US$3.1 billion
  • Seafood Products US$6.1 billion
  • Total US$46.7 billion
  • Top 10 Consumer-Oriented Ag. Imports from the World

    Beef ($3.8B), Soup & Food Prep ($2.2B), Pork ($2.0B), Dairy ($2.0B), Processed Veg. ($1.5B), Fresh Fruit ($1.2B), Bakery, Cereals, Pasta ($0.86B), Poultry Meat ($0.71B), Wine ($0.56B), Processed Fruit ($0.51B),

    Top 10 Growth Consumer-Oriented Ag. Imports

    Poultry meat, Meat products, Coffee (roasted & extracts), Distilled spirits, Non-alcoholic beverages, Chewing gum & Candy, Dairy, Tea, Processed Vegetables, Bakery goods, Cereals & Pasta

    Food Industry by Channels

    • Retail Food Industry US$136.9 billion (2023)
    • HRI Foodservice Industry US$131.7 billion (2022)
    • Food Processing Industry US$63.3 billion (2022)
    • Food & Agricultural Exports US$11.5 billion (2023)

    Top Korean Retailers

    Coupang LLC, Shinsegae Co Ltd (EMART, Ebay Korea, Shinsegae Department Store), Naver Corp, Lotte Group, GS Holdings Corp, Hyundai Department Store, SK Telecom Co. Ltd, BGF Retail Co Ltd, Alphabet Inc, Wemakeprice Inc


    Population: 51.6 million
    GDP: US $1.71 trillion
    GDP per capita: US$ 33,127

    Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/ Challenges

    Strengths Weaknesses
    Well established market with modern distribution channels High logistics costs to ship American products
    Consumer income level continues to increase Consumers have limited understanding of American products
    Opportunities Challenges
    Strong consumer demand for value, quality, and diversity Elevated competition from export-oriented competitors
    KORUS FTA reduces tariff barriers for American 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, Global Trade Atlas, CIA Factbook. To the greatest extent possible, the latest available statistics are used in this publication.

    Contact: U.S. Agricultural Trade Office(ATO) Seoul

    For more detailed information about the Korean market see the Exporter Guide 2023.

    Agricultural Trade Office, U.S. Embassy - Seoul
    Tel: 82-2-6951-6848 Fax: 82-2-720-7921