2017 was a year of remarkable growth for our life business as gross written premiums soared by 10.4 percent year over year to KRW 1,205 billion. In the domestic market, major growth drivers were the expansion of the health insurance business and the development of new products including simplified issue insurance, which was developed in collaboration with primary insurers.
We also successfully kept expanding our overseas portfolio by underwriting new business in Africa. As a result, our overseas life premium volume jumped by 19.8 percent. We continued to generate stable premium income in our existing markets – North America and Asia, especially China.
Our life business delivered strong technical results as well, with net underwriting profit increasing by KRW 3 billion to KRW 47.3 billion. This improvement in profitability was attributable to our portfolio rebalancing and disciplined underwriting.
In the Korean life reinsurance market, we maintained a solid market share of 43.1 percent in 2017, representing a sharp increase from 23.9 percent in 2010. The nation’s total life reinsurance premiums amounted to KRW 1,880 billion in 2017, up KRW 200 billion from 2016, while Korean Re’s life premium income increased by KRW 58 billion to KRW 869.7 billion over the same period.
Throughout 2017, Korean Re continued to increase our engagement with primary insurers in order to effectively respond to a constantly evolving life insurance business environment. For example, we stepped up our initiatives to co-develop new life products such as health insurance for the elderly (silver insurance), lapse-supported whole life insurance and cash-benefit medical insurance.
Developing such new products has become increasingly important for domestic life insurers to deal with a market downturn. In 2017, life insurance premium income in Korea declined by 4.9 percent amid a slowdown in the growth of protection policies and retirement pension plans. The market is expected to recover slightly in 2018, but the extent of growth is likely to be only limited. These weak market conditions inevitably call for breakthroughs in the form of product redesigning or innovation. And Korean Re, as a reliable provider of reinsurance capacity, plays an essential role in the development of new products in cooperation with primary insurers.
Going forward, we will reinforce our status as a leader in the Korean life reinsurance market by improving the quality of our reinsurance services including educational programs and technical assistance. In the global markets, we will strive to find new growth engines so that we should build a stronger overseas life business portfolio.