Exports rise 16.6 percent on year in March
Exports grew at the fastest rate in two and a half years after a five-month rally in the statistic, though the rebound is under threat as Covid case numbers remain stubbornly high and the vaccine rollout is hampered by shortages.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Thursday, exports in March grew 16.6 percent year-on-year to $53.8 billion.
This is the strongest year-on-year growth since October 2018, when exports surged 22.5 percent. Exports have been growing year on year since November last year.
This is the first time in three years in which exports have grown for five consecutive months.
By value, exports in March were the third highest by monthly total. The record was in September 2017, when exports reached $55.1 billion. In October 2018, the figure reached $54.9 billion.
The ministry stressed that export in 14 of 15 major goods categories increased for the first time in nine years. The only category where a decline as recorded was displays, which declined 1.1 percent.
In ten major categories, exports rose for three consecutive months, said Moon Dong-min, head of the ministry's international trade and investment department.
By product, semiconductor exports totalled $9.5 billion, an 8.6 percent year-on-year increase and the highest in two years and four months. Semiconductor exports have been growing for nine consecutive months as the pandemic increased internet usage.
Semiconductors are 17.7 percent of all exports, the largest category.
Automotive exports reached 4.4 billion, up 15.3 percent and the highest level in four years and three months. Auto exports have been rising for three consecutive months.
Biohealth exports have grown for 19 consecutive months. In March, they rose 44 percent to nearly $1.5 billion.
Mobile telecommunication device, consumer electronics and fuel cell exports have been growing for five months.
Petroleum goods and petrochemical product exports increased largely on the base effect, as prices collapsed last year due to the crash in international crude prices.
Petroleum product exports last month grew 18.3 percent to $2.7 billion. Dubai crude prices rose 91.2 percent, from $33.71 per barrel in March 2020 to $64.44 in March this year.
Petrochemical products surged 48.5 percent to $4.75 billion, which is a new record by value.
Among the nine major export markets, exports increased to seven. Exports to China, which is its biggest export market, rose 26 percent to $13.4 billion.
Exports to the United State, Korea's No. 2 export market, grew 9.2 percent to nearly $8 billion. Semiconductor exports to the U.S. have been growing for seven consecutive months.
Exports to Europe surged 36.6 percent year-on-year to $6.33 billion. Korean goods shipped to the Asean market grew 10.8 percent.
Exports Japan, which continued to be at loggerheads with Korea over a range of issues, continued to fall. Last month, exports to Japan fell 2.6 percent.
Imports grew nearly 19 percent compared to the previous year to $49.7 billion. As such, the trade surplus last month was $4.17 billion, the 11th consecutive monthly rise.
"Exports not only have continued to grow for five consecutive months but also grew year on year, playing a central role in leading the economic recovery," Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said. "The government will provide support all around to promote exports."
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]