The combined value of all overseas construction orders South Korean firms have won since the first overseas project in Thailand in 1965 topped the $500 billion mark last month. In particular, 60 percent of the orders, worth some $300 billion, came in the last five years, meaning the sector has been growing at an explosive pace.
"If the rapid growth continues like this, our construction industry will become the world's fifth largest in just two years, with the annual orders amounting to some $100 billion," Lee said during a Construction Day ceremony to mark the feat.
"We can say that the construction industry has been the main engine for South Korea's development, helping realize today's miracle on the land devastated by the Korean War," he said, asking companies to step up efforts to reach a goal of $1 trillion.
A former construction CEO himself, Lee said that he saw a great deal of construction business opportunities during trips to countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, saying those countries have high confidence in the ability of South Korean builders.
Lee also asked large builders to join hands with smaller partners on overseas projects.
"In order to open up an era of $1 trillion in overseas construction orders, we need ceaseless technological innovation and structural reform," Lee said. "This sector should be reborn as an advanced industry with high added values."
Lee said the government has taken a series of measures to help builders expand overseas and promised that such support will continue.