China and Korea dominate shipbuilding today. China leads in tonnage built, while Korea leads in sales as it concentrates on higher value ships. During the 1970s and 1980s, South Korea became a leading producer of ships, including oil supertankers, and oil-drilling platforms. The country’s major shipbuilder was Hyundai, which built a 1-million-ton capacity dry dock at Ulsan in the mid-1970s. Daewoo joined the shipbuilding industry in 1980 and finished a 1.2-million-ton facility at Okpo on Geoje Island, south of Busan, in mid-1981. South Korea eventually became the world’s dominant shipbuilder with a 50.6% share of the global shipbuilding market as of 2008. Notable Korean shipbuilders are Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, the world’s four largest shipbuilding companies. STX Offshore & Shipbuilding also owns STX Europe, which is Europe‘s largest shipbuilder.
The automobile industry was one of South Korea’s major growth and export industries in the 1980s. By the late 1980s, the capacity of the South Korean motor industry had increased more than fivefold since 1984; it exceeded 1 million units in 1988. Total investment in car and car-component manufacturing was over US$3 billion in 1989. Total production (including buses and trucks) for 1988 totaled 1.1 million units, a 10.6 percent increase over 1987, and grew to an estimated 1.3 million vehicles (predominantly passenger cars) in 1989. Almost 263,000 passenger cars were produced in 1985—a figure that grew to approximately 846,000 units in 1989. In 1988 automobile exports totaled 576,134 units, of which 480,119 units (83.3 percent) were sent to the United States. Throughout most of the late 1980s, much of the growth of South Korea’s automobile industry was the result of a surge in exports; 1989 exports, however, declined 28.5 percent from 1988. This decline reflected sluggish car sales to the United States, especially at the less expensive end of the market, and labor strife at home. South Korea today has developed into one of the world’s largest automobile producers. Hyundai Kia Automotive Group is Korea’s largest automaker.
Most of the mineral deposits in the Korean Peninsula are located in North Korea, with the South only possessing an abundance of tungsten and graphite. Coal, iron ore, and molybdenum are found in South Korea, but not in large quantities and mining operations are on a small scale. Much of South Korea’s minerals and ore are imported from other countries. Most South Korean coal is low-grade anthracite that is only used for heating homes and boilers.
Construction has been an important South Korean export industry since the early 1960s and remains a critical source of foreign currency and invisible export earnings. By 1981 overseas construction projects, most of them in the Middle East, accounted for 60 percent of the work undertaken by South Korean construction companies. Contracts that year were valued at US$13.7 billion. In 1988, however, overseas construction contracts totaled only US$2.6 billion (orders from the Middle East were US$1.2 billion), a 1 percent increase over the previous year, while new orders for domestic construction projects totaled US$13.8 billion, an 8.8 percent increase over 1987.
South Korean construction companies therefore concentrated on the rapidly growing domestic market in the late 1980s. By 1989 there were signs of a revival of the overseas construction market: the Dong Ah Construction Company signed a US$5.3 billion contract with Libya to build the second phase (and other subsequent phases) of Libya’s Great Man-Made River Project, with a projected cost of US$27 billion when all 5 phases were completed. South Korean construction companies signed over US$7 billion of overseas contracts in 1989. Korea’s largest construction companies include Samsung C&T Corporation, which built some of the highest building’s and most noteworthy skyscrapers such as Petronas Towers, Taipei 101, and Burj Khalifa.
Korea’s remarkable technological advancements and industrialization allowed Korea to produce increasingly advanced military equipment.
Situated in the most heavily militarized region of the world, South Korea is a manufacturer of armaments. During the 1960s, South Korea was largely dependent on the United States to supply its armed forces, but after the elaboration of President Richard M. Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization in the early 1970s, South Korea began to manufacture many of its own weapons.
Since the 1980s, South Korea, now in possession of more modern military technology than in previous generations, has actively begun shifting its defense industry’s areas of interest more from its previously homeland defense-oriented militarization efforts, to the promotion of military equipment and technology as mainstream products of exportation to boost its international trade. Some of its key military export projects include the T-155 Firtina self-propelled artillery for Turkey; the K11 air-burst rifle for United Arab Emirates; the Bangabandhu classguided-missile frigate for Bangladesh; fleet tankers such as Sirius class for the navies of Australia, New Zealand, and Venezuela;Makassar class amphibious assault ships for Indonesia; and the KT-1 trainer aircraft for Turkey, Indonesia and Peru
South Korea has also outsourced its defense industry to produce various core components of other countries’ advanced military hardware. Those hardware include modern aircraft such as F-15K fighters and AH-64 attack helicopters which will be used by Singapore, whose airframes will be built by Korea Aerospace Industries in a joint-production deal with Boeing. In other major outsourcing and joint-production deals, South Korea has jointly produced the S-300 air defense system of Russia via Samsung Group, and will facilitate the sales of Mistral class amphibious assault ships to Russia that will be produced by STX Corporation. South Korea’s defense exports were $1.03 billion in 2008 and $1.17 billion in 2009.
In 2012, 11.1 million foreign tourists visited South Korea, making it the 20th most visited country in the world, up from 8.5 million in 2010. Recently, the number of tourists, especially from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia, has grown dramatically due to the increased popularity of the Korean Wave (Hallyu).
Seoul is the principal tourist destination for visitors; popular tourist destinations outside of Seoul include Seorak-san national park, the historic city of Gyeongju and semi-tropical Jeju Island. In 2014 South Korea hosted the League of Legends season 4 championship.