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Korea’s exports remain above $50 billion in September 2018-10-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on October 1 that exports remained above USD 50 billion in September for five consecutive months. The cumulative exports from January to September grew 4.7 percent year-on-year to a record high of $450.4 billion, indicating robust export growth.
When compared to a year earlier, however, September exports decreased 8.2 percent to $50.6 billion because of four fewer working days last month and a high base effect.

Average daily exports increased 10.6 percent to $2.6 billion, achieving the fifth consecutive monthly growth, and won-denominated exports went down 9.1 percent to 56.7 trillion won.

Imports slipped 2.1 percent to $40.8 billion, decreasing for the first time in 23 months. Korea remained as a net exporter for 80 consecutive months with a trade surplus of $9.7 billion.

Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo stated that despite a year-on-year decline caused by fewer working days and a high base effect last month, Korean exports in September surpassed $50 billion for five consecutive months. As the export growth rate from October is expected to stay at an average of 5 percent, the total annual exports in 2018 would top $600 billion for the first time ever.

A breakdown of exports shows that three out of Korea’s 13 major export items saw growth. They are semiconductors, petroleum products, and computers. Exports of the first two categories grew at double-digit rates.

Exports of semiconductors soared 28.3 percent year-on-year to the highest record of $12.4 billion, posting the 24th consecutive growth. Despite slowing prices, the growth could be achieved by newly launched smartphone models and greater memory capacities.

Outbound shipments of petroleum products jumped 13.5 percent to $4.1 billion. Higher oil prices as well as higher product prices helped exports to exceed $3 billion for 11 straight months.

Computers shipped overseas increased 5.7 percent to $959 million, growing for 18 straight months. This is attributable to lower prices of solid-state drives (SSDs), which spurred more equipment upgrades in businesses and higher demand for servers.

Meanwhile, a decrease in exports was seen in the following ten categories: petrochemicals, general machinery, automobiles, displays, steel, auto parts, wireless communication devices, ships, textiles, and home appliances. The decline is mostly a result of four fewer working days compared to the same period last year, expansion in overseas production, and more intense competition between finished products.

Among outbound shipments of high-value, high-tech products that the Ministry separately keeps track of, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and SSDs achieved growths. Those of multi-chip packages (MCPs), on the other hand, experienced a decrease.

OLEDs climbed 5.6 percent to $1.1 billion, posting growth for four consecutive months. This is on account of increased demand for newly introduced mobile devices and higher sales of high-end televisions in ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam.

SSDs jumped 10.3 percent to $640 million, thanks to higher demand for both corporate servers and personal computers.

MCPs went down 18.8 percent to $2.0 billion due to heightened competition in China.

By region, exports to China, India, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) expanded. In particular, outbound shipments to India and the CIS posted a double-digit growth.

Exports to China increased 7.8 percent to $14.6 billion on the back of increased sales of general machinery, petrochemicals, petroleum products, and steel.

Korean goods shipped to India returned to growth for the first time in three months, advancing 11.2 percent to $1.3 billion. Increased demand for steel, general machinery, and petrochemicals contributed to the expansion.

Shipments to the CIS also went up 11.2 percent to $871 million because of sales growth in cars, petrochemicals, and semiconductors.

For the third quarter of this year, exports saw a year-on-year growth of 1.7 percent, increasing for eight straight quarters since the fourth quarter of 2016.

Among the country’s top 13 export items, semiconductors, petrochemicals, general machinery, petroleum products, and computers increased in exports. Especially, exports of both semiconductors and petrochemicals posted quarterly record highs of $34.3 billion and $12.8 billion, respectively.

Outbound shipments of OLEDs in the third quarter also reached a quarterly record high of $3.3 billion, increasing 31.5 percent from the same period last year.

By region, shipments to export destinations increased by the following percentages: China (17.8 percent), Japan (9.2 percent), Vietnam (0.8 percent), and the CIS (18.5 percent).

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