South Korea may be a small country, but the tire industry has made sure it’s on the map as one of the world’s major producers.
The South Korean tire industry is dominated by three main players – Hankook, Kumho and Nexen – who have seen impressive growth rates over the past couple of decades. It all started with the country’s automotive industry and now these three companies are recognized around the globe as top producers.
Are Korean Tires Any Good?
Korean tire brands have been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Companies like Hankook and Kumho have made significant strides in improving the quality of their products. In fact, many drivers report that they perform just as well as more expensive options from other countries.
And it’s not just what drivers are saying – as a proof of their quality, Korean tire company Hankook has recently been ranked first in a tire test conducted by German automotive magazine Auto Bild. Their electric vehicle-dedicated high-performance tire, the iON evo, was tested alongside the European tire market leader Michelin.
The results showed that the iON evo performed exceptionally well across all categories. As Auto Bild commented themselves: the iON evo demonstrated “a balanced performance that satisfied both the driving pleasure and safety of high-performance electric vehicles.”
This achievement indicates that Korean tires are competitive with other higher-priced options from different countries.
This just goes to show that sometimes, going with the most expensive option doesn’t always guarantee a better performance for your vehicle.
Top Korean Tire Brands
1. Hankook Tire
Hankook Tire started out as Chosun Tyre in Seoul way back in 1941. It wasn’t until 1978 that they became Hankook Tire, and if you know your Korean, you’ll see this name simply means … “South Korea”.
Since its inception, Hankook Tire has come a long way. Starting off as Korea’s first-ever tire company, it now operates eight production facilities and churns out over 100 million tires annually. With this impressive capacity, it has become the world’s seventh-largest tire manufacturer.
2. Kumho Tire
The Kumho Tire brand was established back in 1960 in Gwangju, South Korea. It originally went by “Samyang Tire” before changing its name to “Kumho” – a nod to its parent company, the Kumho Asiana Group conglomerate. However, this group sold off its shares to Chinese outfit Qingdao Doublestar in 2017.
Currently, nearly 11,000 employees work for Kumho Tire worldwide – mainly focused on creating tires for passenger vehicles. In addition to their two plants situated within South Korea itself, they operate three production facilities located across China (specifically Nanjing, Tianjin and Changchun).
3. Nexen Tire Corp.
Nexen Tire is yet another sizeable tire manufacturer based in South Korea. They’ve been around since 1942 and are currently the third-largest tire producer in the country. Nexen operates three production sites – two of them within South Korea, and one located in Qingdao, China. In 2018 they constructed a new facility over in Zatec, Czech Republic.
Their Changnyeong plant (based in South Korea) has received accolades as being one of the globe’s most cutting-edge and high-tech tire manufacturing sites with 12 million units produced there annually.
This brand first started out as Heung-A Tire Company back in Yangsan (South Korea) before later being labelled Woosung Tire. However, after going through several iterations, it was redefined as Nexen Tire Corporation back in 2008. The name “Nexen” stems from combining the words “next” and “century”.
Smaller Korean Tire Brands
4. Daehan Tire Industries Co. Ltd.
Taking the #4 spot on our list of South Korean tire manufacturers is Daehan Tire Industries Co. LTD, established quite recently in 1990 and headquartered out of Seoul. Their catalogue boasts a wide range of merchandise including inner tubes, flaps and retread tires. Interestingly enough, Daehan supplies some products to Kumho Tires as well.
Unlike larger players such as Nexen or Hankook, Daehan Tire Industries Co. LTD remains primarily oriented towards B2B sales instead of catering directly to consumers: this approach means they don’t run any retail shops either locally or abroad.
5. Dongah Tire & Rubber
Dongah Tire & Rubber is another South Korean tire brand that has established its primary office in Yusan together with a factory located in Bukjeong and a plant stationed in Qingdao. While they do operate within the larger tire manufacturing space, their main focus remains centred around inner tubes – specifically for usage alongside tires.
This company provides an expansive collection of products geared towards consumers including low section, passenger, truck and bus along with off-the-road tube options as well. These different segments all form part of their extensive catalog which caters mainly to B2B sales!
South Korean Tire Market Projections
A TechSci Research report has forecasted that the tire market in South Korea is set to grow at a CAGR of 5.09% during the forecast period, reaching a value of USD 4.47 Billion by 2025. This growth can be attributed to several factors, including the country’s expanding automotive industry and industrial growth.
As one of the top five manufacturers of passenger vehicles in the world, South Korea has an increasing automotive fleet size and exports cars globally. Additionally, competitive pressures among tire manufacturers have led to lower prices for consumers, which is expected to fuel further market growth.
Other important drivers for this growth include increasing vehicle exports, greater electric vehicle adoption rates and government initiatives supporting these efforts. However, it’s worth noting that there is still a lack of indigenous tire manufacturing units in South Korea due to natural rubber scarcity and heavy reliance on imports from Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines.