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GLOBEFISH - Analysis and information on world fish trade

Market access update: Republic of Korea trade profile


Seafood production in the Republic of Korea amounted to 3 333 300 tonnes in 2015. Farmed aquatic plants is an important sector within seafood production, totaling 1.1 million tonnes in 2014, making the Republic of Korea the fourth largest producer worldwide. Aquatic plants include seaweed, and while most of the seaweed production is consumed locally, the country is a net exporter in seaweed trade, both in quantity and value. In 2016, seaweed exports totaled 34 500 tonnes at a value of USD 222 million, largely dominated by edible seaweed (32 000 tonnes).

While the Republic of Korean seafood exports have remained relatively steady, imports have grown significantly since 2000, when there was a notable shift in the Republic of Korean trade balance. From 2000 to 2016, the value of imports tripled to reach USD 4.7 billion. In 2014, the Republic of Korea ranked as the tenth largest global importer, with imports valued at USD 4 271 million.

In order to satiate the strong domestic demand for seafood, the Republic of Korea sourced 1.4 million tonnes of fish and seafood from over 100 countries worldwide in 2016. Its major suppliers include China (taking a 27 percent market share in value), the Russian Federation (15 percent) Viet Nam (13 percent), the United States of America (6 percent) and Norway (5 percent).  In terms of types of seafood imported, frozen hair tail, yellow corvina, croaker, monkfish and Alaska pollock made up 25 percent of the import volume and 15 percent of the value in 2016.  The Republic of Korea is also one of the top global importers of crab, importing 44 500 tonnes in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, the country ranked as one of the leading three global crab importers. 

In terms of exports, the Republic of Korea exported 456 700 tonnes of seafood worth USD 1.6 billion in 2016. Leading importers of the country’s seafood goods include Japan (taking a 36 percent market share in value), China (18 percent) and the United States of America (9 percent). Japan imported mainly frozen tuna fillets and live, fresh/chilled clams, cockles and ark shells.

Consumers in the Republic of Korea have maintained their strong preference for fish, with the average per capita fish consumption reaching 58.4 kg from 2013–2015, one of the highest worldwide. Seaweed account for nearly 30 percent. Consumption is expected to only increase, with per capita fish consumption estimated to reach over 64 kg in 2025. 

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