S. Korea heavily dependent on China for battery minerals supply: report

December 14, 2022

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) — South Korea has the highest foreign dependency among its rival countries for the supply of critical minerals for secondary batteries, with China accounting for the majority of the imports, a report said Thursday.

South Korea topped Japan, China and Germany with the highest ratio of 77.1 percent in the reliance on a single country for the imports of critical battery minerals, including cobalt, manganese, lithium and nickel products, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in its latest report.

Japan came second with 66.5 percent, followed by China with 60 percent and Germany with 51.1 percent, the KCCI said in the report based on the 2020 data from the United Nations Comtrade.

China supplied South Korea with 83.3 percent of cobalt oxide and cobalt hydroxide, 77.6 percent of manganese sulfate and cobalt sulfate, 81.2 percent of lithium oxide and lithium hydroxide, and 87.4 percent of natural graphite, a key anode material for secondary cells.

More than 89 percent of lithium carbonate came from Chile and 59 percent of nickel sulfate was imported from Finland.

In terms of the amount of the imports, South Korea was 58.7 percent dependent on China for battery minerals, a 23.1 percentage point jump from 35.6 percent 10 years ago, the report noted.

South Korea is stepping up to diversify supply chains for the stable procurement of critical minerals, after the U.S. enacted a law on giving tax credits to electric vehicles made with a certain portion of components mined or processed in the U.S. or countries or regions that have free trade pacts with America.

The required portion will start at 40 percent next year and increase in the future.

South Korea’s portion of imports of critical minerals from the United States and countries that have free trade agreements with the U.S. currently stands at about 15 percent, the report said, calling for stepped-up efforts to ensure stable supplies.