Korea's exports showed clear signs of economic recovery even with the US Federal Reserve’s move to end its quantitative easing program, and the current turbulence in emerging markets.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy announced on September 1 that exports in August grew 7.7% year-on-year to reach US$46.37 billion. This increase led to a trade surplus of US$4.9 billion in August, continuing the surplus trend for 19 consecutive months from February 2012.
In 2013, exports jumped 10.9% in January, but plummeted to 8.6% in February. The rate remained stagnant at 0.0% and 0.2% in March and April, respectively, but continued to fluctuate in May-July. It inched up 3.1% in May, but down 1.0% in June. In July, it rebound to score a 2.6% gain.
August witnessed soaring exports of IT products and automobiles, as well as a surge in exports to the US, ASEAN, and China.
Among export items, five industries saw double-digit increases in exports. The automobile sector posted a 43.9% gain, ships 26.2%, wireless telecommunications devices 25.9%, semiconductors 22.1%, and petrochemicals with 12.1%.
By region, exports to the US, ASEAN, and China posted double-digit growth with 17.9%, 15.6%, and 12.8% each. In contrast, those to the EU and Japan slipped 8.8% and 13.2%, respectively. In August, outbound shipments to Japan posted double-digit losses for 4 months in a row, following a negative growth of -11.6%, -17.0%, and -14.9% in May, June, and July each. This trend shows the huge influence of a weak yen.
As for imports, raw materials represented a negative growth of -10.7%. But capital goods and consumer goods rose by 7.7% and 11.3% each. In particular, a growing demand for electricity in August led to a rise in the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), contributing to a 24.4% increase in total natural gas imports from a year ago.