Glimmer of hopeExports in September jumped 35 percent year on year to hit a record monthly high of $55.13 billion. The staggering figure was mostly led by gains of 70 percent in semiconductors and 107.2 percent in steel shipments. Ten out of 13 mainstay exports — except for wireless equipment, home appliances, and automobiles — grew by double digits compared to a year earlier. Even without semiconductors’ unprecedented boom, exports grew 29.3 percent to suggest that the global economic recovery was helping overall shipments.
The data is a confidence check on Korean brands and their competitiveness. The daily exports figure, an average of $2.35 billion, was also a historic high. Exports picked up in both emerging and developed markets. Despite the economic retaliations by Beijing over the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system, exports to China grew for the 11th month in a row, gaining 23.4 percent last month.
In particular, high-end electronic components like organic light-emitting diodes and solid-state drives helped the figures rise. The competitiveness of Korean technology and brands is sustaining the credibility of the country against alarming threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile crisis.
But exports alone cannot save an economy. Exports are mostly concentrated in electronics components. They cannot help in creating new jobs or boosting incomes in households. We could see polarization of the economy and more discrepancies in wealth.
Korea Inc. must seek new value-added industries while keeping up its traditional strengths. Regulations that get in the way of new entries and categories must be lifted so that companies can venture into novel industries with the money they earned from exports. Companies also must invest as to create jobs and boost domestic demand with their riches.
Except for semiconductors, Korea is being closely chased by its competitors. The government and business sector must join forces to seek and build new growth engines. They must not waste a golden opportunity to put the economy on a new growth path.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 2, Page 26