The wonder of ‘640 billion dollars’ in exports to Korea in 66 years

Economy insight
Jo Gye-wan’s Global Economy and Society

A ship leaving Busan Port with cargo of domestic exporters. HMM provided

On December 13, 2021, around 12:00 noon, the government issued an emergency press release. “As a result of the count at 11:36 (a little while ago), this year’s exports exceeded the previous maximum ($604.9 billion per year in 2018).” At this moment, it means that a certain export volume crossed the customs line (border, border, etc.) and broke the annual maximum export performance based on customs clearance. It is estimated that the annual export volume in 2021 will exceed 640 billion dollars. The government, which had been preparing this breaking news since morning, coincidentally held a meeting of foreign economy ministers on the morning of the same day and said, “Comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) (CPTPP) in consideration of economic and strategic values ​​through trade and investment expansion and status as an open trade country. ),” he declared. In an economy of 50 million producing and consuming population, no matter how high the per capita income level rises, there is a limit to the amount of stomach capacity that consumers can digest in a day. You have to sail across the continent and the sea with container ships and aircraft to sell ‘Korean goods’. Since the creation of trade statistics in 1956, the 66-year history of Korean trade, which has achieved ‘achievement’ of 100 billion dollars in exports in 1964, 10 billion dollars in 1977, and 100 billion dollars in 1995, is an outward-oriented system in its constitution and structure. shows that it has been increasingly consolidated. ‘Korea Co., Ltd.’ established an ecosystem for planning, production, and distribution of export products from the beginning of the development period. (now Korea Trade Insurance Corporation) was established. Later, when ‘investment’ was added to the names of the two institutions or ‘export’ was omitted, there were competitor countries’ checks on the export-dependent system and Korea’s agile response. “Around the time when exports reached $100 billion, in the 1990s, foreign companies and the government frequently criticized ‘the Korean government is engaging in unfair practices by providing various policy subsidies to private exporting companies to help them compete in export prices’. That is why our export-related organizations are not only engaged in export promotion business that sells products to other countries, but are also engaged in general ‘trade’ business, including attracting foreign ‘investment’ and promoting the import of foreign goods.” (Government trade official) There are few countries in the world that have major export products in almost all industries and industries like Korea. Trade powerhouses regard Korea as a ‘representative country that has benefited from free trade for decades in the course of economic development’. This is the logic put forward when pressuring Korea to open up more and wider import markets. For this reason, it is extremely rare that the Trade Commission, which investigates and judges unfair trade practices in imported goods, has taken import control measures such as imposing huge anti-dumping duties on US and European imported products. A trade official said, “We live on exports and have long benefited from the international free trade order. It is difficult for us to invoke import restrictions on products imported from other countries. If we respond prematurely, we may face even greater retaliation.” In the world of trade and commerce dominated by the ruthless ‘logic of power’ that seeks only to pursue its own interests through various difficult situations and conditions, ‘640 billion dollars’ is amazing. The Korean economy has played a role in revitalizing the economy as exports rebounded rapidly during various crises such as foreign exchange, finance, and corona. Is that so? It is difficult to find policy makers, politicians, and economists who advocate for resolving the polarization between large exporting companies and domestic SMEs, avoiding excessive dependence on trade that is vulnerable to global economic fluctuations, and reorganizing the economy based on domestic demand growth. Reporter Hankyoreh [email protected]

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