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South Korea Records Historic Surplus in Intellectual Property Rights Trade

Driven by the global popularity of Hallyu content, South Korea's intellectual property rights trade balance marks the largest annual surplus to date
South Korea
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South Korea’s cultural exports, including dramas, movies, and webtoons, have propelled the country to achieve its largest-ever annual surplus in the trade balance of intellectual property rights, totaling US$180 million for the year 2023, as reported by the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The intellectual property rights trade balance, a crucial segment of the current account, encapsulates international transactions associated with intellectual property, categorizing royalty receipts as exports and payments as imports. After recording its initial surplus in 2021 and a deficit in 2022, the balance impressively swung back to a surplus in 2023, showcasing the burgeoning value of South Korean intellectual creations on the global stage.

Despite a US$1.86 billion deficit in industrial property rights, focused mainly on patents and trademarks, the overall scenario shows a significant improvement, buoyed by substantial gains in the cultural and artistic sectors. The automotive and secondary battery industries, in particular, have seen a marked increase in patent exports, aligning with the expansion of overseas operations and heightened global demand for South Korean products.

The copyright sector alone recorded a striking US$2.21 billion surplus, with cultural and artistic copyrights, especially in music and videos, contributing significantly. This sector’s performance is attributed to the escalating global appetite for South Korean cultural content and the resurgence of overseas events post-COVID-19, which collectively drove the copyright surplus to unprecedented heights.

Large domestic corporations played a pivotal role, registering a record surplus, mainly through increased exports of patents, trademarks, and software copyrights. Contrastingly, small and medium-sized enterprises faced challenges, marked by a deficit due to heightened imports of computer programs.

The manufacturing sector emerged as a substantial contributor to the surplus, with the electrical, electronic, and automotive industries leading the charge. However, the information and communication technology sector faced deficits, underscoring the varied performance across different industries.

On the international front, while deficits were noted with key trading partners like the United Kingdom and the United States, South Korea enjoyed significant surpluses with China and Vietnam, highlighting the diverse geographical spread of its intellectual property interactions.

This remarkable performance underscores the growing influence and economic impact of South Korea’s creative industries and intellectual property on the global stage, reaffirming the nation’s status as a powerhouse of cultural exports and innovative creations.

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