Korea's trade surplus in the parts and materials sector reached a record high of US$30.8 billion (32.71 trillion won) in the January-March quarter, according to data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) on April 18.
Outbound shipments of parts and materials reached US$74.4 billion (79.01 trillion won) in the first three months of this year, up 13.3 percent from a year earlier, while imports rose 8.2 percent, totaling US$43.6 billion (46.3 trillion won). The trade surplus in the first quarter grew by US$5.45 billion (5.79 trillion won) from the previous quarter.
The outbound shipments of parts and materials account for 51 percent of US$145.7 billion (154.73 trillion won) of the nation’s total exports in all industries and the trade surplus in parts and materials takes up 22.8 percent of US$13.5 billion (14.34 trillion won) of the total trade surplus in all industries. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that parts and materials made the biggest contribution to the country's trade surplus trend.
By item, exports of electronics parts, including memory chips, accounted for 42.1 percent of the total at US$31.3 billion (33.24 trillion won), followed by those of petrochemical products 16.4 percent at US$12.2 billion (12.96 trillion won) and primary metals 9.2 percent at US$6.9 billion (7.33 trillion won). Exports of electronics components and petrochemical products increased 24.9 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively, while shipments of transport machine parts decreased 12 percent.
By country, exports to China, South Korea's largest trading partner, took up 31.9 percent of the total at US$23.7 billion (25.17 trillion won). Exports to ASEAN countries and Europe accounted for 16.9 percent at US$12.6 billion (13.38 trillion won) and 12.6 percent at US$9.4 billion (9.98 trillion won), respectively, ranked among the top exporting countries. Exports grew in most regions, including Europe, China, the ASEAN and the United States, while that to Central and South America and the Middle East slightly dropped.
The MOTIE said that exports of electronics parts to China continued to take a favorable turn with a sudden rise due to the growing demand of memory chips related to big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) and the demand of memory chips also increased in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. In Europe, exports of all materials, mainly petrochemical products, rose, while that of parts for general machines and electronics products all increased due to the expansion of investment in facilities as the local economy has picked up recently.