Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-2014


Over the past 60 years, the South Korean economy has gotten outstanding achievements that would be hard to find around the world. South Korea’s real GDP, which was converted to US dollars using 2011 PPPs, in 2010 was 1,506 billion from 3.8 billion in 1960, and real GDP per capita in 2010 was 29,411 from 1,537 in 1960. The successful paradigm of the South Korean economy has clearly benefitted from export-led development and ready access to common sea lanes.

South Korea is surrounded by the ocean on three sides. It has abundant ocean resources, with its 433,000㎢ of territorial water under its jurisdiction, which is about five times the size of its land. It also possesses 1,914㎞ of coastline and 3,167 of island. In addition, South Korea produces 3 million tons of fish per annum, 99.7% of its trade cargo is transported by the ocean. In other worlds, the ocean resources and ocean industries have played a significant role in the national economy.

Under such circumstances, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MOMAF) was established in 1996 to realize the integrated ocean governance, which was performed by 13 different ministries and administrations. The Basic Act on Marine and Fishery Development (BAMFD) has also been enacted in 2002 by MOMAF to promote the development of the ocean industry, and protect the ocean environment, ocean resources, and ocean jurisdiction. This law became a basis of integrated ocean policies in South Korea. Besides, the 1st Ocean Korea 21 (OK 21) during 2001-2010 was planned by MOMAF in 2000 as a new vision and strategies to cope with the changes in ocean environment, and improve the international competitiveness in ocean power.

But the MOMAF was disassembled by the previous administration in 2008. The functions of maritime transportation, marine environment policy, and so on were transferred to the Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs (MLTM), and that of fishery to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery (MIFAFF). In this situation, the MLTM made the 2nd OK 21 during 2011–2020 in 2010. After then, the present administration reestablished the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries (MOF) in accordance with demand of the people in 2013.

Otherwise, South Korea’s ocean industries including shipbuilding, shipping, offshore platform constructing, and fisheries have achieved enormous improvement. According to the MOMAF’s report, which was written by the Arthur D. Little in 2006, South Korea’s ocean power was the 12th among 40 ocean countries. In the case of the ocean industries, its ship and offshore platform building industry was the top in the world, and shipping and port industry had also world class competitiveness.

However, it is difficult to know the scale and status of the ocean industries in the South Korean national economy. That’s because Korea has not ocean economy statistics systems, and official agency in charge of estimating the ocean economy. Global ocean countries, such as the USA, China, and EU, have ocean economy statistics systems. In the case of the USA, the National Ocean Economic Program (NOEP) has provided a full range of the most current economic and socioeconomic information available on changes and trends along the USA coast and in coastal waters. Especially, NOEP produced the concept of both the ocean economy and coastal economy. But, in Korea, the ocean economy has been estimated whenever the need arose, and the coastal economy hasn’t been estimated yet.

These situations require researchers to provide policy-makers, decision-makers, industry, and general public with reliable information of the ocean economy and coastal economy. So this paper aims to analyze the status of the ocean economy and coastal economy in the South Korean national economy. With these general aims, after this introduction, the second section will introduce the ocean economy and coastal economy, and the cases by country. The third section will analyze the status of the ocean economy in the South Korean national economy, and the fourth section will also show it of the coastal economy. Lastly, the final section will sum up the conclusions.


Dr. Kwang Seo Park, Director, Polar and Future Policy Research Department, Korea Maritime Institute, wrote this paper as part of his 2013-2014 Visiting Scholar residency at the Center for the Blue Economy.