S. Korea’s overseas direct investment falls in Q1 amid geopolitical risks

South Korea’s overseas direct investment fell 14.6 percent in the first quarter of this year amid high interest rates and geopolitical uncertainties in the Middle East and elsewhere, the finance ministry said Friday.

Investments made by South Korean companies overseas came to US$15.09 billion during the January-March period, down 14.6 percent from $17.68 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The quarterly figure had been on a constant fall from the fourth quarter of 2022 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but rose 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023 before turning lower again.

“High global interest rates and weak investor sentiments due to geopolitical risks in the Middle East, among other things, appeared to have affected the corporate investment overseas,” a ministry official said.

In 2023, investments made by South Korean companies declined 22.2 percent on-year to come to $63.38 billion, marking the first yearly fall in three years.

By sector, offshore investment in the foreign insurance and financial field during the first three months of 2024 declined 17.8 percent to $5.5 billion.

Investment in foreign manufacturing sank 35.9 percent to $4.05 billion and investment in the foreign mining sector dived 46.4 percent on-year to $630 million in the first quarter.

But corporate investment in overseas properties soared 177.3 percent to $2.24 billion and that in science and technology fields surged 156.9 percent on-year to $930 million.

“Companies are making a greater investment in innovative industry fields, such as aviation mobility and rechargeable battery. Their investment in foreign properties has also grown as part of their efforts for revenue diversification,” the official said.

The United States was the No. 1 investment destination for South Korea with $6.12 billion, though the figure marked a 29.8 percent on-year fall.

Investment in Luxemburg soared 71.8 percent to $1.64 billion in the first quarter, followed by investment in the Cayman Islands with $1.26 billion. Investment in Vietnam jumped 47.4 percent to $670 million.