The combined exports to the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reached 80 billion USD over the January-October period of 2019, while its imports hit US$47.4 billion. It indicated that the RoK enjoyed a trade surplus of $32.6 billion.
In 2018, South Korea's combined exports to the members reached $100 billion, with the trade surplus hitting $40 billion.
The latest figures are significant as the RoK’s exports to ASEAN members hit around $3.9 billion in 1989, with imports standing at around $4.1 billion, indicating trade jumped around twentyfold in the past three decades.
By country, the RoK’s trade with Vietnam grew at the sharpest pace. While Vietnam was the 59th-largest export partner for the RoK in 1989, the Southeast Asian country became the fourth-largest partner in 2018.
A RoK government official said the ASEAN members are growing at a fast pace, and they are considered to be young and prominent markets for the future. He expected the RoK’s trade with the countries will continue to grow in the future.
Earlier this month, the ASEAN members, the RoK and other dialogue partners namely China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand reached an agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The nations agreed on 20 chapters of the RCEP and will continue talks to sign the deal in 2020.
This is the largest free trade agreement that the RoK has participated in as it accounts for one third of the global GDP. It plays an important role for Asia’s fourth largest economy in the context that the country is making efforts to expand its global trade network.