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Korea’s January exports decrease 5.8 percent to $46.4 billion 2019-02-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on February 1 that Korea’s exports in January decreased 5.8 percent to USD 46.4 billion compared to the same period last year.
Its imports also slipped 1.7 percent to $45.0 billion, but its trade balance remained positive at $1.3 billion, making the country a net exporter for 84 consecutive months.

Exports last month were affected by many external factors such as the U.S.-China trade dispute and the falling prices of semiconductors and oil.

Moreover, the slowdown in exports was mostly caused by an economic cycle. Export volumes stayed robust, but the prices of export items went down.

Some of major export items, including automobiles, posted growth, and it is expected that exports will improve in the second half of this year because the prices of semiconductors and oil are forecast to rise.

Regarding Korea’s January exports, Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo stated that although export conditions are not favorable, the Ministry will put utmost effort in revitalizing the country’s exports.

Among the country’s 13 major export items, exports of general machinery, steel, automobiles, and auto parts expanded while those of the remaining nine items, including semiconductors, petrochemicals, and petroleum products, contracted.

Exports of semiconductors went down 23.3 percent to $7.4 billion due to falling prices and the tech industry’s delayed investment in data centers.

Those of petroleum products and petrochemicals dropped 4.8 percent to $3.5 billion and 5.3 percent to $4.0 billion, respectively. A sharp decrease in oil prices that started in October last year affected the prices of petroleum products and petrochemicals.

Even though the export value of petrochemicals decreased, their export volume increased 5.3 percent. However, in the case of petroleum products, their exports fell in both value and volume terms.

On the other hand, new promising export items such as secondary batteries and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) posted growth.

Outbound shipments of secondary batteries jumped 14.5 percent to $660 million, posting growth for three consecutive years. This is attributable to increased sales to electric-car makers and growing demand for energy storage systems (ESSs) related to renewables.

Those of OLEDs recorded a double-digit growth of 12.8 percent to $799 million thanks to increasing demand for large panels and mobile phones. Rising OLED prices also contributed to the expansion.

Exports of electric vehicles soared 184.7 percent to $280 million because of growing demand caused by technological innovation, strengthened environmental regulations, and newly introduced models.

By region, exports to China contracted, but those to other export destinations such as the U.S. and the EU expanded. In particular, shipments to the U.S., the EU, India, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) grew at double-digit rates.

Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gained 6.4 percent to $8.9 billion as a result of increased shipments of computers, automobiles, and auto parts. Improved exports of ships also contributed to growth.

Those to the U.S. increased 20.4 percent to $6.2 billion on the back of automobiles, auto parts, general machinery, and semiconductors.

Shipments to the EU grew 11.9 percent to $5.0 billion due to increased exports of automobiles, auto parts, ships, and petroleum products.

The value of Korean goods shipped to India climbed up 17.1 percent to $1.4 billion, led by general machinery, steel, petroleum products, and semiconductors.

Exports to the CIS jumped 44.3 percent to $1.1 billion mainly because of automobiles, auto parts, general machinery, and semiconductors.

Meanwhile, exports to China decreased 19.1 percent to $10.8 billion mainly due to falling sales of semiconductors, general machinery, petroleum products, and wireless communication devices.

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