Export drop linked to U.S.-China trade disputeSemiconductors continued to top the list of Korea’s largest export items last year, data released Tuesday by the Korea Customs Service showed.
Outbound shipments of semiconductors came to 110.5 trillion won ($93.9 billion) in 2019, accounting for 17.3 percent of the country’s overall exports of 638.1 trillion won, according to the data.
That amount marks a 25.9 percent plunge from 2018, when semiconductors accounted for nearly one-quarter of Korea’s overall exports.
The drop has largely been attributed to a sharp drop in global prices of memory chips.
Korea’s overall exports dipped 10.3 percent in 2019.
Automobiles were the second-largest export item for Korea’s economy in 2019, with their outbound shipments coming to 50.6 trillion won, or 7.9 percent of total exports, followed by petroleum products at 47.8 trillion won, or 7.5 percent.
Auto parts and flat display panels came next with 26.5 trillion won and 24.0 trillion won, respectively.
In import markets, crude oil topped the list at 82.6 trillion won, or 13.9 percent of total imports, followed by semiconductors at 55.3 trillion won, or 9.3 percent.
Of the top five import items, four were energy products, as the economy depends nearly entirely on imports for its energy needs.
Natural gas imports amounted to 24.1 trillion won in 2019, accounting for 4.1 percent of its total imports, followed by petroleum products with 20.6 trillion won (3.5 percent) and coal with 16.7 trillion won (2.8 percent).
By country, China was again the single-largest destination of Korean exports with some 160 trillion won, or over 25 percent of its overall exports, shipped to the world’s second-largest economy, according to the data.
The United States came in second with 86.2 trillion won worth of Korean goods (13.5 percent), followed by Vietnam with 56.6 trillion won (8.9 percent) and Hong Kong with 37.5 trillion won (5.9 percent).
The drop in Korea’s overall exports has been attributed to the prolonged trade dispute between the world’s two largest importers of Korean products, which appeared to have come to a temporary end as Washington and Beijing signed the so-called “phase one” trade deal at the beginning of this year.
Korea enjoyed its largest 2019 bilateral trade surplus in trade with Hong Kong, posting a 35.4 trillion won trade surplus.
Its trade surplus with China came to 34.1 trillion won, followed by Vietnam with a 31.9 trillion won trade surplus.
Its largest trade deficit again came in trade with Japan, but its deficit with the neighboring country dropped sharply from a year earlier to 22.5 trillion won in 2019 - the smallest trade deficit with Japan since 2003.
Japan’s exports to Korea dropped sharply after Tokyo removed Seoul from its list of trusted trade partners in July, prompting a nationwide, consumer-led campaign to boycott Japanese products.