Analyses & Etudes

Top Figures on Trade between France and Korea

Top Figures on Trade between France and Korea

As the 7th and 10th world economy respectively, France and Korea have been historically strong economic partners since the 1960’s. As domestic economies and international trade have been recovering in the aftermath of the global pandemic, there is a lot of potential for Korean and French companies to explore market opportunities in both countries.

So, let’s see how bilateral trade evolved between France and Korea in this latest edition of FKCCI insights!

Whopping performance for imports from Korea to France and gradual stabilization of exports from France to Korea

According to data collected from French customs, volume of bilateral trade reached a record high of 10.5 Bn  EUR in 2021, thanks to a a whopping performance of imports from Korea to France of +50% YoY in 2021 to reach 5.7 Bn EUR, thus largely exceeding the pre-pandemic level of 4.2 Bn EUR in 2019. Although the pandemic hit Korean exports to France by -7.7% in 2020 YoY to reach 3.8 Bn EUR, they picked up quickly in 2021, due largely to strongholds of Korean industry such as automobile, shipbuilding, and biotech.

Exports from France to Korea have been stabilizing to 4.8 Bn EUR in 2021 (-0.2% YoY), showing signs of recovery in the post-pandemic era compared to the -7.7% from 5.2 Bn EUR in 2019 to 4.8 Bn EUR in 2020. Therefore, the trade balance shifted to be positive for Korea (+875 M EUR) for the first time in the history of economic relations between the two countries.


France remains Korea's top 1 supplier for wine and cosmetics, with a good performance of the cosmetics and perfumes sector (+23%, 400 M EUR) at the 2nd rank of total exports from France to Korea, and the beverage sector (+52%, 187 M EUR). Leather goods (+42%, 389 M EUR) and clothing (+8%, 198 M EUR), also benefitted from trends of the Korean consumer markets marked by increasing spendings in the luxury and alcohol sectors, combined with curiosity for foreign products and trust in the image of quality of French products.

Regarding industrial sectors, machinery and equipment suffered a 19% decrease to 431 M EUR, but remained the top 1 sector of French exports to Korea. This loss was balanced by good performances in other industries: chemical, plastics, rubber (+11%, 385 M EUR), electrical equipment (+36%, 307 MEUR), pharmaceutical products (+34%, 290 MEUR) and automotive equipment (+92%, 227 MEUR), benefiting from strong performance of the Korean industry in these sectors.

The vehicles’ industry led by Chaebols such as Hyundai-Kia, was the top 1 sector, taking a share of 23% of total imports from France and Korea and showing a +51% YoY performance in 2021 to reach 1.3 Bn EUR. Ships’ imports by the world leader in the shipbuilding industry ranked 2nd with a 11% share of the total and an impressive 272% YoY growth (639 M EUR). Pharmaceutical products (+63%, 405 M EUR), products of coking and refining (+162%, 394 M EUR), chemicals, plastics and rubber (+60%, 302 M EUR) were respectively in the 3rd and 4th and 6th position. Imports of electric equipment (+11%, 312 M EUR) and consumer electronics (+14%, 225 M EUR) including home appliances and smartphones led by Samsung and LG, registered a less impressive but still strong performance at the 5th and 7th ranks respectively.


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