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Korea’s exports reach $512.9 billion in 2020, exceeding $500 billion mark for 4th consecutive year 2021-01-04

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on January 1 that Korea’s exports in 2020 reached USD 512.9 billion, falling 5.4 percent. The country’s annual imports recorded $467.2 billion, down 7.2 percent. Korea remained as a net exporter for the 12th consecutive year with a trade surplus of $45.6 billion.

Despite a downturn in overall exports due to the global economic fallout and a plunge in oil prices amid pandemic, Korea’s exports showed noticeable signs of recovery after the 3rd quarter last year. The export value exceeded the $500 billion mark for the 4th consecutive year, and the trade surplus went up 17.3 percent compared to 2019.

According to the WTO statistics on the top 10 leading exporters’ cumulative exports from January to October, Korea is one of the four countries that showed a positive growth or a single-digit decline.

Information and communications technology-related products such as semiconductors, computers, and secondary batteries attracted strong demand. Chip exports in 2020 went up 5.6 percent to $99.2 billion and recorded the second highest export value in history. Computers jumped 57.2 percent to $13.4 billion and secondary batteries marked the 5th consecutive year of growth.

Moreover, high-value added, new growth items such as bio-health products, system semiconductors, eco-friendly cars, and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels all achieved the highest export values in history.

The items that saw increases were semiconductors (up 5.6 percent), bio-health products (up 54.4 percent), computers (up 57.2 percent), plastics (up 0.03 percent), agricultural products and fisheries (up 4.5 percent), cosmetics (up 15.7 percent), secondary batteries (up 1.3 percent), and home appliances (up 0.7 percent).

Meanwhile, those that saw decreases were general machinery (down 8.8 percent), automobiles (down 13.1 percent), petrochemicals (down 16.4 percent), steels (down 14.4 percent), petroleum products (down 40.7 percent), ships (down 2.0 percent), auto parts (down 17.2 percent), displays (12.2 percent), wireless communication devices (down 6.1 percent), textiles (down 13.2 percent), fine chemical materials (down 0.4 percent), and robots (down 3.4 percent).

By region, exports to the U.S. increased for the 4th consecutive year, up 1.1 percent to $74.2 billion). Those to all other destinations decreased.

Imports for the year declined 7.2 percent year-on-year to $467.2 billion. By use, imports of capital goods consumer goods rose 14.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, but those of commodities (down 26.6 percent) and intermediary goods (down 6.1 percent) experienced declines.

For December 2020, Korea’s exports saw a year-on-year growth of 12.6 percent to USD 51.4 billion, surpassing $50 billion for the first time in 25 months. Imports also inched up 1.8 percent to $44.5 billion and the trade balance showed a surplus of $6.9 billion, staying positive for 8 straight months.

Daily exports recorded $2.1 billion, the highest value in 2020, and 11 out of 15 major export items saw improvement. All seven new growth engine items (bio-health products, secondary batteries, cosmetics, agricultural products and fisheries, plastic products, fine chemical materials, and robots) experienced growth for the 2nd consecutive month, which is the first time in 29 months.

By region, exports to the all regions except for the CIS and the Middle East showed upturns, which is the most number of regions since October 2018 to which Korea’s exports saw growth.

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