Korea, Inc. sells a lot of…

Quick.  What is South Korea’s largest export?  Cars?  Ships?  Consumer electronics, you might say?  Well, hold on to your seats- it’s refined petrochemicals.  Yes, according to the WSJ, it’s the gas you put in your car that is Korea’s largest export.

It helps to have a China that has an insatiable and ever growing demand for the black gold as your neighbor.  China itself just doesn’t have enough internal refining capacity to meet its own demand.  Okay, I guess that factoid is good enough to make you sound smart in an East Asian business cocktail party or if you ever become a contestant on Jeopardy.  Other then that, it’s not going to be much use to anyone else.  Carry on people.

  • judge judy

    refining’s a tough business-dirty, dangerous, volatile, and usually low margin. i didn’t read the article but ownership of much of korea’s refining business lies in hands outside the republic with companies that supply the feedstock. strategically, domestic refineries makes sense for internal petrochem supply needs, but it’s a very tough business.

  • wangkon936


    This is true. Refining facilities in the U.S. are old and break down often, which leads to spikes on gas prices. Small margins, a lot of cap ex. It’s a tough business.

  • RElgin

    Actually this thread is the most interesting thread currently on the blog, in light of some current events:

    Per comments to Iranian Ambassador to Seoul Ahmad Ma’soumifar, Park described the Islamic Republic to be among South Korea’s major commercial partners in the Middle East. . . Ma’soumifar also expressed hope for the further expansion of ties between Iran and South Korea during Park’s tenure. (cite)

    and the fact that the Samsung Group (in conjunction with French Total) is renewing a deal with Iran to buy oil for processing, in such a way as to avoid international sanctions against Iran. (cite)

    and all this while a most unusual transfer of money has come to light involving ~1.2 billion UDS of supposedly frozen Iranian assets here in Korea and a Korean-American fellow (cite).

    What is interesting is what is not in the papers since there seems to be more left hand vs. right hand going on.

  • Yoram Yasur

    “Refining facilities in the U.S. are old and break down often, which leads to spikes on gas prices”