S. Korean exports show double-digit growth for second straight month

Posted on : 2021-02-02 17:32 KST Modified on : 2021-02-02 17:32 KST
S. Korean exports rise by 11.4% in January, increasing by over 20% in the US, China and EU
Cargo containers filled with export products are loaded onto ships at a dock in the Port of Busan, in the city’s Nam District. (Yonhap News)
Cargo containers filled with export products are loaded onto ships at a dock in the Port of Busan, in the city’s Nam District. (Yonhap News)

In defiance of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea’s exports increased by 11.4% in January, extending a growth trend that began in November. Both total exports and average daily exports have now grown for three months in a row.

According to January trade figures released on Feb. 1 by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, total exports for the month were worth US$48.01 billion, a year-on-year increase of 11.4%.

The last time Korea had double-digit growth in exports for two months in a row was 40 months ago in August and September 2017.

January’s export value was the second highest on record for that month, coming in behind January 2018 (US$49.2 billion). In January 2020, the country’s exports fell 6.6% compared with January 2019.

The average daily export value (US$2.13 billion), which accounts for business days, rose as well, up 6.4% year on year. Compared with previous Januaries, this month’s average daily export value was the highest ever, while the total export value was the second highest.

Korea’s exports tumbled between March and August 2020 amid the pandemic before bouncing back to positive territory in September (+7.2%). Following another dip in October (-3.8%), exports have risen continuously for three months now, up 4.1% in November, 12.6% in December and 11.4% in January.

Export prices in January increased by their greatest percentage (29.9%) in three years and nine months. “The high value-added of export items is one of the factors that has been driving the growth in Korean exports in recent months,” the government explained.

Categories with high value-added include system semiconductors, whose export value grew by 16.0% in January, as well as electric vehicles (81.0%), OLED panels (52.1%) and medical devices (64.0%).

Korea saw exports increase in 12 of 15 top categories in January: semiconductors, automobiles, petrochemicals, car parts, steel, ships, wireless communication devices, displays, home appliances, computers, biotech and health, and rechargeable batteries.

The last time that exports increased in ten or more of those categories for three months in a row was 40 months ago.

Significantly, all six IT-related categories have seen exports increase over the past three months. Semiconductor exports (+21.7%) have been growing by double-digit rates for five months in a row, while exports of wireless communication devices (+58.0%) and displays (+32.2%) grew by the highest rate in 16 and 10 years, respectively.

Automobile exports (+40.2%) posted their highest rate of increase since Sept. 2017 after a two-month downturn, while biotech and health exports (+66.5%) have risen for 17 months in a row. Exports of petrochemicals (+8.6%) and steel (+6.0%) returned to positive territory for the first time in 26 months and 4 months, respectively.

In terms of destination markets, Korea’s exports in January grew by more than 20% in the Chinese market (+22.0%), the US market (+46.1%) and 27 countries in the EU market (+23.9%). Significantly, exports to the US market (US$8.39 billion) were the highest of any month on record.

In terms of total value, Korea’s imports in January rose 3.1% year on year to US$44.05 billion. Its balance of trade stood at US$3.96 billion for the month, posting a surplus for the ninth month in a row.

By Cho Kye-wan, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

Related stories

Most viewed articles