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Korea’s January exports expand 11.4% to $48.0 billion 2021-02-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on February 1 that Korea’s exports in January expanded 11.4 percent from a year earlier to USD 48.0 billion. Imports also went up 3.1 percent to $44.1 billion. The trade balance stood at a surplus of $4.0 billion, staying positive for the 9th consecutive month.

Exports in January showed double-digit increases for two months in a row for the first time in 40 months. It is also the third consecutive month in which the total exports and the average daily exports (up 6.4 percent) went up at the same time. In particular, the average daily exports exceeded $2.1 billion and hit the record high value for the month of January.

High value-added items such as system semiconductors (up 16.0 percent), electric vehicles (EVs, up 81.0 percent), organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs, up 52.1 percent), and medical devices (up 64.0 percent) showed significant rises.

Outbound shipments to the three largest export destinations – China (up 22.0 percent), the United States (U.S., up 46.1 percent), and the European Union (EU, up 23.9 percent) all advanced more than 20 percent, which is the first time in 40 months.

Among Korea’s 20 major export items, outbound shipments of 16 items saw growth. They are semiconductors, automobiles, petrochemicals, ships, steel products, displays, auto parts, wireless communication devices, bio-health products, computers, plastic products, agricultural products and fisheries, cosmetics, fine chemical materials, secondary batteries, and home appliances. Those of the remaining 4 items saw decreases: general machinery, petroleum products, textiles, and robots.

Display exports jumped 32.2 percent to $1.8 billion. The OLED panel demand is recovering due to the expansion of the global smartphone demand, and the liquid-crystal display (LCD) panel prices went up.

Outbound shipments of automobiles jumped 40.2 percent to $4.0 billion. The export prices continued to rise as the shares of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and eco-friendly vehicles went up. Shipments to the U.S. and the EU experienced double-digit increases because of consumers’ increased preference for private cars amid pandemic.

Those of bio-health products leaped 66.5 percent to $1.3 billion and posted increase for the 17th consecutive month. The global demand for COVID-19 diagnostic kits is robust, and shipments to the EU and ASEAN continued to grow.

Meanwhile, exports of general machinery edged down 4.8 percent to $4.0 billion. Exports to ASEAN, the U.S., and the EU were weak due to reduced investors’ confidence.

Those of petroleum products dropped 46.0 percent to $1.8 billion. Although declines in oil prices were mitigated recently, the export prices still have not recovered to those of 2020.

By region, outbound shipments to China, the U.S., the EU, Central and South America, and India expanded while those to ASEAN, Japan, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Middle East contracted.

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