Exports start to feel the effect of coronavirus pandemic

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Exports start to feel the effect of coronavirus pandemic

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on exports is starting to be felt.

According to a report by the Korea Customs Service on Monday, exports in the first 10 days of this month shrunk 18.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago to $12.2 billion.

Imports also declined, shrinking 13 percent year-on-year to $14.6 billion.

Major export items all fell including semiconductors, which declined 1.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago, and automobiles, declining 7 percent.

Petrochemical products saw an unusually sharp decline of 47.7 percent. The petrochemical industry was hurt by falling international oil prices, which reduces the prices of their products.

Mobile communication devices, mostly smartphones, tumbled 23.1 percent.

Exports to China, Korea’s largest market, fell 10.2 percent. Exports to the United States declined 3.4 percent, while to Europe they tumbled 20 percent.

The pattern followed in other export markets, like Vietnam (a 25 percent decline), Japan (7 percent) and South America (51.2 percent).

Although the coronavirus outbreak in Korea is under control, it is not in other countries especially for Europe and the United States.

Last month, exports fell only 0.2 percent to $46.9 billion compared to a year earlier.

In volume rather than value terms, exports actually rose in some categories.

During an economic ministers’ meeting on April 1, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki predicted the full impact of the outbreak on Korea’s exports would be felt this month.

Last week, the World Trade Organization projected global trade this year would shrink between 13 and 32 percent.

This is far sharper than the 12.5 percent decline in 2009, during the height of the global financial meltdown.

According to Statistics Korea, trade accounts for 66 percent of the country’s economy. Exports alone account for 35.15 percent.

The central bank last week projected growth for the economy to fall below 1 percent this year.

The Bank of Korea in December projected 2.3 percent growth for the year but adjusted that to 2.1 percent in February.

Some private institutions expect the economy to shrink this year.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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