Robust export performance turned the ROK's overall balance of payments deficit into a $1.7 billion surplus in 1986, which grew to $12.1 billion in 1988. Since then, the balance of payments surplus has declined; in 1990, the balance of payments had a deficit of $274 million because of declining exports, rising imports, and a current account deficit. Over the long term, growth in exports will depend on industry's efforts to regain competitiveness lost through wage increases, labor unrest, and exchange rate changes. The deficit grew to over 4% of GDP in 1996, before subsiding in 1997 due to a shrinking currency base.
At the end of 1998, South Korea had $20.2 billion in net outstanding loans, but by the end of 1999, it had become a net creditor. By the end of April 2001, $33.3 billion in outstanding loans were owed the country.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of South Korea's exports was $159.2 billion while imports totaled $146.6 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $12.6 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that in 2001 South Korea had exports of goods totaling $151.4 billion and imports totaling $138 billion. The services credit totaled $29.6 billion and debit $33.1 billion. The following table summarizes South Korea's balance of payments as reported by the IMF for 2001 in millions of US dollars.
|Balance on goods||13,392|
|Balance on services||-3,527|
|Balance on income||-886|
|Direct investment abroad||-2,600|
|Direct investment in South Korea||3,198|
|Portfolio investment assets||-5,499|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||11,856|
|Other investment assets||7,458|
|Other investment liabilities||-11,764|
|Net Errors and Omissions||-2,698|
|Reserves and Related Items||-13,416|