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Korea’s February exports rebound for the first time in 15 months and grow 4.5% to $41.3 billion
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on March 1 that Korea’s exports in February rebounded and increased 4.5 percent from a year earlier to USD 41.3 billion. Imports inched up 1.4 percent to $37.2 billion.
The trade balance stood at a surplus of $4.1 billion, remaining positive for 97 straight months.
February exports marked the first rebound in 15 months despite the outbreak of the new coronavirus. The decline in exports has been improving since hitting a trough in October 2019, and the year-on-year export growth turned positive after falling for 14 consecutive months. However, the spread of the COVID-19 presents significant uncertainties to exports after March, especially considering the impact on demand from China.
The export volume in February also went up 7.3 percent, and the volume of semiconductor exports (up 14.4 percent) increased for the eighth consecutive month.
Among Korea’s 20 major export items, outbound shipments of 14 items saw growth. They are semiconductors, general machinery, wireless communication devices, auto parts, home appliances, textiles, computers, ships, plastic products, bio-health products, agricultural products and fisheries, secondary batteries, cosmetics, and robots. Those of the remaining 6 items saw decreases: petrochemicals, petroleum products, automobiles, displays, steel products, and fine chemical materials.
Semiconductor exports increased 9.4 percent to $7.4 billion primarily because of strong growth of data centers and increase in dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) semiconductor prices. The year-on-year chip exports rebounded for the first time in 15 months.
Outbound shipments of computers leaped 89.2 percent to $1.1 billion and posted increase for the fifth consecutive month. Increase in solid-state drives (SSDs) and the stabilization of NAND unit price decline contributed to the growth.
Wireless communication devices went up 8.0 percent to $1.1 billion due to strong exports of mobile phone parts resulting from the relocation of Korean factories abroad. The year-on-year export growth increased for the first time in 5 months.
Exports of new growth engines also posted growth. Bio-health products jumped 22.2 percent to $750 million on the back of the launching of new biosimilar products by Korean pharmaceutical companies in the first quarter of 2020 and robust sales in the ASEAN and the EU markets due to efforts to diversify medical equipment items. Outbound shipments of bio-health products have increased for six consecutive months.
Meanwhile, automobile exports went down 16.6 percent to $2.4 billion due to the disruptions in the supply and demand of auto parts resulting from the suspension of operations in factories in China during the holidays and temporary closure of domestic production plants.
Outbound shipments of displays contracted 21.8 percent to $1.1 billion as domestic production and shipments decreased due to the business transition from liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.
By region, outbound shipments to the U.S., ASEAN, the CIS, Central and South America, and India increased while those to China, the EU, the Middle East, and Japan decreased.