South Korea will develop rare earths in Vietnam, Australia, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa this year, while cooperating with Japan for overseas development of the minerals, the government said in a statement on Tuesday.
The move is part of government efforts to prepare against possible supply instability of rare earths, as demand in new industries is expected to rise sharply in the medium to long term.
China last month cut its rare earths export quota for the first half of 2011 by 35 percent compared with a year earlier, saying it wanted to conserve reserves.
South Korea, which depends heavily on energy and resources imports, said in December that it would seek to nearly quadruple combined self-sufficiency rates of rare earths and lithium to 26 percent by 2019 from 7.3 percent in 2009 as part of a broader move to beef up resources self-sufficiency.
Asia's fourth-largest economy said last month that it would double combined self-sufficiency rates for rare earths and other strategic minerals to 10 percent this year from 5.5 percent last year.