South Korea's exports in September tumbled from a year ago due to fewer working days and a high base effect, government data showed on Oct. 1.
Outbound shipments totaled US$50.58 billion last month, down 8.2 percent from a year ago, while imports amounted to $40.83 billion, a drop of 2.1 percent. As a result, Korea generated a trade surplus of $9.7 billion in September, extending the streak of monthly trade surplus to 80 months.
The monthly export amount exceeded the US$50 billion mark for the fifth consecutive month since May this year, although the number of working days in September was four days less than a year ago due to the Chuseok holiday, which fell from Sept. 24-26.
Korea’s exports were led by semiconductors, which totaled US$12.4 billion in September, up 28.3 percent from a year ago and a new monthly record that exceeded the US$11.5 billion set a month earlier. Sales of high-value memory chips and storage devices were brisk in major markets.
The growth in semiconductor exports was offset by a 22.4 percent plunge in auto exports. Sales in the United States, the largest auto market for Korean carmakers, picked up, but exports in other markets dropped due to fewer working days.
By country, exports to China, South Korea's top trading partner, increased 7.8 percent on-year on the back of memory chips, petrochemicals and machinery products.
Yet shipments to the U.S. dropped 11.8 percent on tepid demand for petroleum goods and wireless communication equipment.
Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong projected Korea’s exports for this year would surpass US$600 billion for the first time.
"South Korea's export growth in the remaining three months of the year is expected to hover around 5 percent on average, boosting this year's total exports to surpass $600 billion for the first time," Kim said in a briefing.
"But the external environment is not favorable due to rising protectionism in major economies and currency fluctuations in emerging economies following the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest hike," he added.