You are here

Korea’s domestic market driving composite growth

News International-French

22 Aug 2011

In terms of both volume and value, Korea still has a way to go, but the trend is positive for composite materials. The statistics indicate a steady advance, and value-added processes are gaining ground.

(Published on May-June 2006 – JEC Magazine #25)


In 2004, the Korea Reinforced Plastics Association registered about 650 manufacturers, spread out over South Korea’s six regions.


An industry getting its bearings


The output by sector for 2004 was estimated at 142,000 MT, excluding marble (about 65,000 MT). This included 85,000 MT for unsaturated polyester resin, 45,000 MT for glass fibre and 12,000 MT for fillers. The sectors concerned are building and construction, wateÈr supply, sewage and environment, general engineering and industrial, electricity/ electronics, marine and boat, transportation, corrosion-resistant equipment, and others. So far, aerospace and sports & leisure are absent as distinct categories. The heading “Others” accounts for 9% of the total, with 13,000 MT.


Specific dynamics


In terms of weight for user sectors, it is interesting to use a percentage to note the differences between the Korean market and the Asia-Pacific market as a whole*. For example, the leading Korean sector is building and construction, with a 30% share of the market; yet that sector accounts for only about 15% of the Asia- Pacific market. The second leading sector in Korea has a 27% share and is called “water supply, sewage and environment”, while this category is absent as such in the Asia-Pacific zone; the corresponding sector there is infrastructure and public works, and it has only an 8% share.


Outputs by sector (market breakdown).

(unit: M/T)
Sector              Output 2004 (estimated) Component ratio
Building & construction
Water supply, sewage & environment
General engineering & industrial
Electrical & electronic
Marine & boat
Corrosion-resistant equipment
Total 142,000 100%

Note: excluding marble (about 65,000M/T).


Outputs by processing methods, raw materials.

Processing methods
(fabrication breakdown)
Raw materials
Processing Methods Quantity
ratio (%)
Raw materials Output Remarks
Hand lay-up 71,500 50% UPR for FRP 85,000 Exports (10,000) included
Hot-press (SMC/BMC) 34,000 24% Glass fibre 45,000 Imports included from Japan: 300
USA: 100
China: 5,100
Malaysia: 2,500
Total : 8,000
Pultrusion 12,500 9%
Filament winding 12,000 8%
Spray / projection 8,000 6% Filler 12,000  
Others (RTM, RIM etc.) 4,000 3%
Total 142,000 100% Total 142,000  


Given the discrepancies recorded and a Korean domestic/export demand ratio of 1:10, these examples are an indication that the Korean composite industry has its own dynamics, and that it is developing in accordance with expectations linked to the domestic market rather than to export markets.


Towards greater process control


The data on the processes used in the Korean composite industry for converting composite materials are very symptomatic of the stage of development there.


Hand lay-up still accounts for about 50% of the volume, and spray-up, for 6%; compare this to the roughly 17% for both processes in the Asia-Pacific zone!


Still, SMC/BMC in Korea accounts for a full 24% and closed-mould processes, 3%, signalling a trend towards valueadded processes. That is consistent with the evolution worldwide.


Diverse applications


With the passing years and innovations, composite materials have carved out a place in Korea and can now be found in many different sectors.


By type of process, the most common applications are:
- door trim, ceiling boards, auto parts and counter tops for SMC/BMC;
- tent poles; C.S.M. and bridge profiles for pultrusion;
- fibre-reinforced acrylics, cooling towers, water tanks and bathtubs for laminating;
- S.F. tanks, pipes, chemical tanks and FRP pipes for filament winding;
- auto parts, sink bowls and wind-turbine blades for RTM/RIM; and
- transportation, LNG tankers, wall panels and train parts for flame-retardant materials.


A few sectors stand out for their rapid growth. There is a strong demand for applications such as wind-turbine blades, double-decker coaches, FRP pipes and optical-cable strength members.


Trends and goals


Frequently, not all segments in a single industry may grow at the same speed; some stagnate or even regress while others are booming. This is currently the case in Korea, where the septic-tank, water-tank, bathtub, tent-pole and fishing-boat segments are declining even as the FRPpipe, cure-in-place pipe, flame-retardant, C.S.M./profile, door-trim and anti-corrosion segments are showing significant growth.


In the highly competitive environment, the composite industry must tackle three challenges: organising the substitution for other materials, seeking value-added products, and finding environment-friendly solutions.



* The figures for the Asia-Pacific zone are average estimates based on 2003-2004 glass-fibre consumption.


Source: “Korean composite market” by Lee Young-Cheol, Managing Director Aekyung Chemical, Korea Reinforced Plastics Association, Con-Ex 2005, Tokyo, Japan.