In this paper, we empirically examine how export pioneers emerge and how they are related to product creators/innovators, utilizing a rich plant-product level dataset from the Korean manufacturing sector for the period of 1990-1998. Our analysis covers the process from the appearance of product creators as well as product imitators to the emergence of export pioneers. We find, first, that product imitators are larger, more productive and older than product creators. Second, most export pioneers are nevertheless found to be product creators. This result is largely due to the fact that almost all export pioneers export the products in the same year as product creation. Third, there are similarities as well as differences between product creators and export pioneers. Plants that are more productive or larger are more likely to become product creators as well as export pioneers. However, previous exporting experience positively affects the probability of export pioneering only, while plants’ engagement in R&D positively affects the probability of product creation only. We discuss possible explanations for our main empirical results as well as their policy implications.