Capital Seoul
Population 50,801,405
Language Korean (Hangul)
Currency South Korean Won (₩)
Average income $33,110 (USD)
Koreans population in New Zealand Approx. 30,000


South Korea is one of the most highly developed and prosperous nations in the world. In the decades since its split from North Korea in 1948, the country has placed itself as a world leader in industries such as car manufacturing and consumer electronics. In December 2015 New Zealand entered into a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, delivering benefits to Kiwi exporters and promoting two way investment.

South Korea has a population of approximately 50 million, 82.5% of which live in urban areas. Major cities include the capital Seoul (9.7 million people), Busan (3.2 million), Incheon (2.6 million) and Daegu (2.2 million). The country is located on the southern half of the Korean peninsula, with the southern end of Japan lying to the south east.

Following the split from North Korea in 1948, the two countries have moved in very different directions, both economically and socially. While the people of the South enjoy a free, modern way of life, it is well known that the people of North Korea do not enjoy such luxuries. Over half a century of strict rule by a family of dictators has left the country isolated and extremely poor. A 4 km wide Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates the two nations.

South Korea’s economy is largely export based. $535.6 billion worth of exports were made in 2015, making it the 6th largest exporter globally. The majority of Korean exports are computer parts and other electronic goods, along with automobiles and auto parts. Imports into South Korea in 2015 totalled $430.8 billion. The bulk of these were energy related products (petroleum, natural gas and coal), along with automobiles and textiles.


  • 74,224 Korean tourists visited New Zealand in the past 12 months, an increase of 23.1%

Export Education

  • 7,910 Korean students studied in New Zealand in 2014


  • Korea and New Zealand enjoy two way exports valued at $4 billion


  • In 2015 Korean companies invested $484 million in New Zealand

Strong prospects for 2017

Despite recent socio-political turmoil, South Korea is becoming one of the newest hot spots for economic growth. While the market has two major issues, growing household debt and an aging society, there are also advantages to doing business in South Korea. The first advantage is that the market has a solid industrial structure (high rate of technological innovation, newer business models and stable fiscal conditions) which helps the local government to develop and implement more policies for economic growth. Despite socio-political issues, the South Korean stock market continues to surge thanks to new technologies, increased Chinese consumption of Korean brands (such as cosmetics, baby products, travel services and daily use products), new business models (including social networking services and mobile advertising) and changes to governance structures. Companies within intellectual rights and advanced technologies industries are also expected to see growth over the next number of years. These trends show a number of growth opportunities for foreign businesses wanting to engage with South Korean consumers and markets. However, business owners are cautioned to be aware of a number of risks when investing, including the exchange rate risk, the emerging market risk and the geopolitical risk from North Korean nuclear and missile testing. Despite the risks, South Korea is still expected to be the new hot growth market offering a number of business opportunities.



Market Trends


Illnesses and ongoing changes in health needs associated with a rapidly ageing population is driving demand for a broad range of bio-health related products and services. Pension funds are swelling and under  intense pressure to boost returns. Asset allocations are increasing to alternative investments (commercial property, infrastructure and private equity).


Korean’s loyalty for some domestic products is declining. Korean tastes are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. As a result, Korea’s imports of processed food, functional food and food ingredients continue to increase (6% yoy to NZ$17 billion in 2015).


Korea is committed to investing in education and human capital. In 2014, Korea’s investment in R&D was NZ$73 billion or 4.3% of GDP (R&D intensity). Korea consistently ranks in the top three countries globally for patent productivity, science infrastructure and on Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index