Since Urethanes Technology last visited Korea in 2015, the polyurethane industry in Korea has continued to grow in the areas where it touches the automotive industry, but signs of maturity are beginning to show in other sectors.
The Korean polyurethane industry is well back-integrated into poyols, MDI and TDI, according to figures supplied by Polyurethane World (PW), the local language polyurethane publication.
It is a country dominated by rigid applications for polyurethane foam, the numbers show, and that remains largely unchanged up to 2015. In 2005, demand for rigid material at around 168 kT/year was 68 kT/year larger than demand for flexible materials at 100 kT/year. By 2015, rigid demand was running at 196 kT/year, and flexible at approximately 129 kT/year.
This is driven by the structure of the consuming industries for both flexible and rigid foams.
The flexible sector is unusual because, unlike other industries in the West where slabstock is the largest volume use, the automotive sector is consistently the largest end-use sector for the materials, with more 70% of flexible foam consumption, according to figures from PW.
That local language publication puts the automotive industry’s share of flexible foam consumption at between 70% and 75.6% of consumption between 2005 and 2015. In absolute terms, PW suggests that consumption in the automotive sector reached a peak at 97.8 kT in 2015. There was a small fall to 93 kT in 2016, it said.