International trade and investment is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. It includes the international flow of tangible and intangible commodities such as finance, insurance, transportation, distribution, information technologies as well as the international flow of key production elements such as capital, labor, technology, and so on. Furthermore, it includes a series of international agreements such as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for such international regulations or norms have a significant influence on labor, technology, and competition in the international economic environment. Korea’s level of involvement in international trade and investment has strengthened significantly over the last five decades.
Korea’s rapid growth in trading stems directly from the government-sponsored export-oriented economic development strategies that were implemented with a series of five-year plans beginning in 1962. For example, trading volumes have increased significantly from around 100 million USD in 1964 to over 1 trillion USD (export: 559.6 billion USD, import: 551.5 billion USD) in 2013. Korea is now ranked 8th in the world by trading volume. Along with the significant growth of trade, the Korean economy has become more and more dependent on international trading. There has been a rapid increase since the early 2000s, accounting for 62.5% in 2004, 85% in 2008, and 82.4% in 2013. There has also been remarkable growth in exports since the early 2000s. For example, exports have increased from 150.4 billion USD in 2001 to 559.6 billion USD in 2013, making the trade balance grow from 9.3 billion USD in 2001 to $44 billion USD in 2013. The main commodities exported by Korea are vessel, ocean structure and part of vessel, ocean structure, semiconductors, automobile, and flat display and sensor between 2008 and 2012. Among those commodities, vessel, ocean structure and part of vessel, ocean structure accounts for the highest export revenue