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Korea’s auto market highlights technological advances, high-quality parts production

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 06:00
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South Korea’s orderly cultural flair for engineering innovations, precise assembly line protocols and superior supply chain organization has propelled the nation to a No. 5 ranking in global automotive production.

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Industry-leading inroads into electric vehicle battery technologies and a country-wide commitment to manufacturing highly functional and affordable auto components of all types have combined to deliver an expansive international marketing presence.

Kim Yong Geun, president and CEO of the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), explains that “we are trying to shift the paradigm from fast-follower to leader-with-creativity.” 

There are 883 auto parts manufacturing firms in Korea, per KAMA figures tabulated in 2015, including four new market entries during the year. Domestic parts production employs some 295,000 people, and in 2015 Korean operations were inaugurated by 14 overseas direct-importers. Within Asia, “Korea” is the preferred term for South Korea. North Korea is commonly called the DPRK, as in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Korea ranks No. 12 in the world for manufacturing OEM components; it is 18th in aftermarket parts production volume. 

Achieving official certification levels for automotive exports and imports is a high priority, strongly encouraged and aided by the Korean government. In 2016 the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) signed on with NSF International to adhere to its auto parts evaluation and certification standards.

“We expect that as we develop this well-structured certification program, high-quality aftermarket parts can be distributed,” both domestically and internationally, says Seok-Won Kim, an industry executive who assisted in facilitating the arrangement. NSF compliance is also desired for imported parts entering the country.

An agreement with the Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) was enacted in 2014. “This means that CAPA-certified manufacturers are ready to go when it comes to supplying high-quality parts to the Korean market,” says CAPA executive director Jack Gillis.

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