The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on August 1 that exports topped USD 51.9 billion in July, returning to year-on-year growth after a month of contraction.
The value of average daily exports advanced 4.0 percent compared to July 2017 to hit $2.2 billion, growing for three consecutive months. Average daily exports excluding ships jumped 15.1 percent to $2.1 billion, continuing a 21-month growth streak.
The volume of overall outbound shipments advanced 3.3 percent, and export prices rose 2.9 percent between July 2018 and July 2017.
Imports increased 16.2 percent to $44.9 billion, rising for 21 straight months for the first time in 77 months since February 2012. The trade surplus in goods stood at $7.0 billion, remaining positive for 78 consecutive months.
Minister Paik Ungyu stated that Korea’s exports hit the second-highest level on record in July, despite unfavorable trade conditions such as U.S.-China trade tensions and increased protective measures.
A closer look at exports shows that 10 out of Korea’s 13 major export items saw growth. They are semiconductors, general machinery, petrochemicals, petroleum products, steels, computer and peripheral devices, displays, auto parts, wireless communication devices, and textiles. Exports of the first six categories registered double-digit growth.
Semiconductor exports soared 31.6 percent year-on-year to $10.4 billion, the fourth largest figure ever. Although prices dropped slightly, shipments were supported by strong demand for server and mobile DRAM.
Exports of general machinery advanced 18.5 percent to $4.7 billion, growing for five months in a row. This was underpinned by robust demand in advanced economies, including China and the U.S.
Overseas shipments of petrochemicals and petroleum products jumped 24.1 percent to $4.3 billion and 45.2 percent to $4.0 billion, respectively, thanks to rising oil prices.
Steel exports grew 34 percent to $3.5 billion as protective measures put in place by the U.S. and the European Union (EU) pushed up steel prices.
Exports of computer and peripheral devices jumped 10.0 percent to $882 million from a year earlier, expanding for 16 straight months. This was attributable to the increased demand for both personal and commercial use.
Outbound shipments of displays inched up 2.4 percent to $2.3 billion, mainly due to the export growth of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays.
Exports of automobile parts increased 7.2 percent to $2.0 billion as new models saw a sales boost in U.S. and China.
Exports of wireless communication devices rose 4.0 percent to $1.5 billion, returning to growth after a 28-month-long contraction.
Textile exports expanded 6.6 percent to $1.2 billion on the back of price surges and stronger demand in major economies.
Meanwhile, exports of automobiles, home appliances, and ships all saw a decline.
Among outbound shipments of high-value, high-tech products, items of which the Ministry keeps track, OLED exports soared 43.8 percent to $948 million. This was mainly due to demand for TVs and stockpiling of smartphone panels before upcoming new model launches. Meanwhile, exports of multi-chip packages (MCPs) and solid-state devices (SSDs) declined 19.9 percent to $1.3 billion and 4.0 percent to $495 million, respectively.
By region, exports to all regions increased, except to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (down 1.3 percent) and to India (down 5.4 percent).
In particular, outbound shipments to five regions posted double digit growths: China (27.3 percent), Japan (17.6 percent), Central and South America (23.1 percent), the Middle East (21.7 percent), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (20.4 percent). Exports to the U.S., Vietnam, and the EU grew 8.8 percent, 7.7 percent, and 7.1 percent, respectively.
Concerning imports, inbound shipments of crude oil expanded 63.2 percent to $7.3 billion on the back of rising oil prices. Computer storage imports increased 20.6 percent to meet the demand from production facilities in Korea. Liquefied natural gas imports surged 29.2 percent due to increased demand for electricity.