SEVERAL South Korean companies are planning to establish multibillion-rand manufacturing plants in SA, boosting the Asian manufacturing powerhouse's presence in SA's economy.

Steel firm Posco, electronics group LG, Hankook Tyre, and Korean Trade Insurance will all set up base in Gauteng.

HSG, a manufacturer of heavy metal components, has chosen Richards Bay as its regional headquarters, to target shipping.

The deals were concluded at the three-day Korean trade exhibition in Sandton, which ended on Wednesday.

The huge South Korean investment in SA could result in thousands of job opportunities for South Africans.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was in Durban this week to celebrate the International Olympic Committee's decision that his country would host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"There's a recognition from South Korean companies that Africa presents profitable opportunities, hence we chose SA to host the first ever Korean trade exhibition on the continent," said Byung-Sam Kim, director-general for Africa at the Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Agency.

A study released on Tuesday by the African Development Bank showed that South Korea was among Africa's top five trading partners. China commanded the biggest share of the African market, accounting for 38% of the continent's total trade with emerging countries. This was followed by India at 14,1%, South Korea at 7,2%, Brazil at 7,1% and Turkey at 6,5%.

South Korea's primary steel maker, Posco, announced yesterday that it had bought out Samancor's 50% holding in their Poschrome joint venture in SA, taking 100% control.

Samancor is the world's second-largest ferrochrome maker, with annual output of about 1,3- million tons. The product is used widely in making steel alloys and stainless steel.

Samancor was yesterday unable to confirm reports of the deal in the South Korean media. A company spokesman said its CEO, Jurgen Schalamon, was on a trip, and only he was authorised to speak on the subject.

"I think this is indicative of the quality of chrome ore that we have in SA . and the potential for SA to expand not only chrome ore production, but ferrochrome production as well," Abdul Davids, head of research at Kagiso Asset Management, said yesterday.

The deal would probably benefit Johannesburg-listed Merafe Resources, through its 20,5% stake in the Xstrata-Merafe Chrome venture, the biggest producer of ferrochrome in the world, he said.

Posco chairman Chung Joon- yang had this year visited Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to secure stable sources of ferrochrome, and negotiate Posco's role in national development and infrastructure projects, South Korean media reported yesterday.

He also visited the Kalagadi manganese mine development and Kumba Iron Ore's Sishen mine in the Northern Cape , to discuss co-operation between the companies. Posco has an 11,36% interest in Kalagadi's manganese project, which is 80% owned by Kalahari Resources, a black- owned company led by women, and 20% by SA's Industrial Development Corporation.

SA supplies more than 50% of high-quality "charge chrome" for the global stainless steel industry. More than 80% of Samancor's chrome-ore output is consumed in the production of ferrochrome in SA. The remainder is exported.

About 85% of SA's chrome alloy production is exported to stainless steel producers across the globe.

Samancor was delisted from the JSE in 1998 when it was bought out by BHP Billiton and Anglo American. In late 2009, International Mineral Resources, which operates in Ukraine and Russia, became the majority shareholder, with a 70% direct shareholding in Kermas SA.