What Are The Major Natural Resources Of South Korea?

By Benjamin Elisha Sawe on January 23 2019 in Economics

Green tea fields in South Korea.
Green tea fields in South Korea.

South Korea is a country found in East Asia in the North Temperate Zone and has a mountainous terrain. The country has a population of about 51.4 million people and an area covering 38,150 square miles. South Korea is one of the world’s most developed economies and is regarded as a high-income country with exceptionally high human development ranking at position 22nd worldwide. As of 2010, South Korea had the 11th world’s largest economy regarding nominal GDP and the world’s 12th largest GDP based on purchasing power parity. The country is a regional powerhouse and a global leader in technological and industrial sectors. South Korea is the fifth largest in the world regarding exports and the eighth largest regarding imports. The economy of the country is largely export driven with the principal export products being automobiles, electronics, machinery, ships, robotics, and petrochemicals. South Korea is among the founding member nations of East Asia Summit and APEC. The country is also a member of WTO, G20, and OECD among other international organizations. The country experienced the highest economic growth rate in 1960s even in the year 2000 it was still one of the fastest-growing nations in the world along with its counterpart countries of Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, which formed what was known as the Asian tigers and what the Koreans refer to as the miracle of the Han River. Some of the natural resources in South Korea include arable land, hydroelectricity, and minerals like lead, graphite, coal, molybdenum, and tungsten among others.

South Korea's Natural Resources

Arable Land

About a quarter of the total land area in South Korea is arable and is currently facing numerous challenges. There is a decline in the farm population and the proportion of agriculture to the national income has decreased significantly from what it was in the early 1950s. Typically farms have been subdivided into small plots by family owners, and they are cultivated primarily by manual labor or animal labor, and this has hampered the improvement in farm productivity. Additionally, the country is experiencing an aging population particularly in the rural areas which have caused a severe shortage in family labor. Work productivity has been increasing in the recent past because the government has attempted to improve by putting great emphasis on mechanization, commercialization, and specialization. Rice is the most common food crop, and different types of food crops are also cultivated which include tangerines, citrus, persimmons, and strawberries. Vegetables, in particularly cabbages and flowers, have become one of the important crops in South Korea. Ginseng, which is one of the most important plants in Korea and other neighboring countries, constitutes a tiny portion of the total agricultural production in South Korea, but it is highly valued because of its superior quality, and it is exported to different countries. Other crops which are widely cultivated across South Korea include potatoes, soybeans, wheat, and barley, but some of these crops are also important because they are required to meet the domestic demand.


Livestock production in South Korea is one of the most dynamic agricultural practices in the country. As the country experienced fast economic growth rate, consumption of livestock products such as milk and meat also increased significantly. Meat production increased significantly in response to the increase in consumption and the support from the government. In 1997, beef production in the country was 237,000 tons, which was a huge increase from 1996 when the production was 174,000 tons. Pork production in the same year was about 699,000 tons, chicken produced was 279,000 tons, and the total production of milk was 2.1 million tons. As of 1997, there were approximately 3,257,000 cattle in the country, which represented a 0.3% drop from the previous year. There were a total of 465,000 households who were engaged in rearing and keeping of cattle with an average hand size of 5.9 per household. The total population of cattle was composed of 2,735,000 livestock for beef production and 544,000 livestock kept for milk production purposes. Chicken raised in the country in 1997 was approximately 88,251,000, and the populations of pigs were 7,096,000.


Most of the forest cover in South Korea has remained relatively unchanged. From as early as the 1970s, there has been successful for reforestation in areas where forests had been cleared. Domestic production of timber accounts for a negligible proportion of the total demand for timber in the country. Logging in the country is primarily limited to the mountainous areas where coniferous trees are widespread in areas such as the provinces of North Kyŏngsang and Kangwŏn. The veneer and plywood industry has developed largely because of the imported wood. The South Korean evergreen is one of the largest forests in the country covering an area of 5,700 square miles. The forest is located in the southern fringes of the Korean peninsula. The climate in the region is categorized as temperate and humid and receives an average of 39.4 inches per annum. Other forests in South Korea include Gotjawal forest which is natural forest and the Gyrim woodland forest.


South Korea has relatively few mineral resources within its borders, and the most important mineral reserves in the country include graphite, iron ore, coal, silver, gold, zinc, lead, and tungsten. All these minerals constitute approximately two-thirds of the total value of mineral resources in the country. The deposits of tungsten and graphite are among the world’s largest deposits. Mining activities in the country are mainly on the extraction of iron ore and coal. The domestic requirement of crude petroleum and some of its metallic minerals are met through imports.

Forecast of the Country’s Economy

The economy of South Korea grew by 2.7% in 2018 which was the slowest in the country in the past six years, and this was a result of weakening exports. However, in the last quarter of 2018, the economy grew at a rapid rate, and this was a result of an increase in government spending. In 2019, the economy is expected to slow down, and according to some experts, it will grow at the rate of about 2.6%.

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