Korea’s Polymer Trade in 2018

Korea exported 10 million tons of commodity polymers in 2018, up 4% from the prior year, imported 900,000 tons of commodity polymers, up 15%, plus an additional 150,000 tons of recycle polymers, up 141%.

Propylene polymers were Korea’s largest export, 3.2 million tons, up 5% on substantially increased shipments to Europe, North America and Latin America. Exports within the Asia-Pacific region were flat.

Exports of ethylene polymers totaled 3.1 million tons, up 2%. Shipments to every region declined except Asia-Pacific, up 6%, and Latin America, up 64%. About one-third of Korea’s ethylene polymer total went to China.

Korea exported 937,000 tons of virgin PET in 2018, unchanged, mainly to Asia-Pacific. PET imports more than doubled, China providing about half of the 196,000 ton total.

Imports of recycle PET also more than doubled, polymer mainly from Asian-Pacific sources.

Korea was a large exporter of fabricated plastic products in 2018 shipping 900,000 tons mainly within the region. One exception was PVC floor/wall covering, the largest market for which was North America. As this product is currently assessed additional duties as part of the US – China trade war, shipments from Korea to US are likely to rise if a trade agreement is not reached.

From International Trader Publications’ 2018 Yearend Korea Polymer Trade Report, a 50 page publication analyzing Korea’s trade in commodity polymers, recycle polymers and fabricated plastic products.