Exports' 45.6% growth in May is best since 1988

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Exports' 45.6% growth in May is best since 1988

Cargo containers are stacked at a port in Busan on June 1. [YONHAP]

Cargo containers are stacked at a port in Busan on June 1. [YONHAP]

 
Korea's exports soared 45.6 percent in May, the sharpest growth since 1988 thanks to a rebound in mainstay export items including semiconductors, cars and petrochemical products.  
 
Outbound shipments from the country totaled $50.7 billion last month, a record for the month of May, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Tuesday.  
 
This follows 41.2 percent growth in April compared to a year earlier, and was the seventh consecutive month of expansion.  
 
The Trade Ministry said that it was the first time ever for Korea’s exports to log over 40 percent growth in two consecutive months.
 
The upbeat performance coincides with a widening rollout of vaccinations that allows some advanced economies to reopen businesses, fueling demand for a wide range of products and services.  
 
The biggest export category was semiconductors, which hit $10.04 billion in May, up 24.5 percent from a year earlier.  
 
The biggest yearly growth was seen in automobile parts, which surged 182.3 percent to reach $1.82 billion in May.  
 
Petroleum-related products also showed remarkable strength at $3.03 billion, up 164.1 percent on year, driven by rising oil prices.  
 
Increased oil prices also helped exports of petrochemical goods jump 94.9 percent to $4.57 billion thanks to growing demand for synthetic chemicals required for cars and electronic devices.  
 
Automobile exports increased 93.7 percent to reach $3.49 billion last month as cars made by Korean manufacturers like Hyundai Motor sold well in the U.S. and Europe.  
 
Bigger SUVs and electric vehicles drove the growth, according to the ministry.  
 
By regions, May saw double-digit growth in Korea's three major export destinations – China, U.S. and Europe – but also in emerging markets including India and the Asean nations.  
 
Exports to China, Korea’s biggest export market, grew 22.7 percent year-on-year to $13.19 billion, with particular strength in shipments of steel and petrochemical goods.  
 
Exports to the U.S., Korea’s second-largest export market, grew nearly 62.8 percent to $7.47 billion, owing to robust demand for cars and chips, especially dynamic random access memory (DRAM).    
 
Exports to Europe equally jumped 62.8 percent to $4.9 billion, helped by the automobile and machinery sectors.  
 
Exports to Asean countries grew 64.3 percent last month while those to India rose 152.1 percent.  
 
Korea’s export to Japan also gained 32.1 percent, driven by semiconductors and auto parts.  
 
Trade Minister Moon Sung-wook noted that exports data has shown less of an overreliance on a handful of export categories like cars and semiconductors, which could mitigate underlying risks to the economy.  
 
“Not only does the increasing growth in overall exports present an encouraging sign, but the latest figures suggest that our export fundamentals have improved,” the minister said in a statement.  
 
“In the past, several sectors like chips and automobiles powered Korea’s exports, but recently a wider range of areas enjoyed growth, especially intermediary items whose exports climbed more than 50 percent for two consecutive months,” Moon said.  
 
Intermediary items refer to materials or resources used to produce a finished consumer good, including petrochemicals, machinery and steel products.  
 
BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
 
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