South Korea's direct investment in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) rose nearly 17 percent in 2018 amid heated competition with Japan and China to preempt the growing market, data showed Friday.
South Korean firms invested a total of US$5.26 billion in ASEAN countries last year, up 16.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association and the Export-Import Bank of Korea.
Seoul's direct investment in the region has been expanding at an annualized rate of 4.2 percent since posting $4.45 billion in 2010.
Last year's jump came as South Korean companies have been cranking up efforts to tap into the ASEAN market with growth potential and cheap labor.
South Korean corporations set up nearly 1,300 new firms in ASEAN member states last year, nearly double the number for the prior year.
Seoul is not alone in pushing to make forays into ASEAN. Japan and China have also been ramping up direct investments in the region.