The domestic auto industry was Korea's star player in the export market last year.
Korea's Trade Ministry said Wednesday that the sector's trade surplus hit a record high of 63 billion U.S. dollars in 2013.
That was the highest surplus among all the country's export categories, and it wasn't even close.
The shipbuilding sector came in a distant second last year at 34 billion U.S. dollars.
Ever since 1984, when the nation began to break away from its heavy dependence on imports of auto parts, the auto trade surplus has grown by an average of 34 percent each year.
The ministry attributes last year's record to a rise in quality competitiveness and enhanced brand value, along with the increased popularity overseas of Korea's large cars and recreational vehicles.
The auto industry is expected to enjoy an even better year in 2014 on improving demand in and out of the country.
The sector started of the year on a high note, with domestic sales of Korean automobiles in January gaining four percent on-year.
Outbound shipments, however, plunged by nearly 10 percent last month due to souring global sentiment over the U.S. tapering its quantitative easing.
But looking at the whole year ahead, the trade ministry expects Korea to post a record high in exports on an upturn in global demand from Europe and emerging countries like China and Russia as they begin to recover from their economic slumps.
Yoo Li-an, Arirang News.