South Korea's exports totaled US$54.97 billion last month, a 22.7 percent surge from a year ago. The figure represented the second-highest monthly figure since September 2017.
According to the data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Nov. 1, the October export growth was led by increased sales of memory chips and petrochemical products.
Korea’s accumulated exports in the first 10 months of the year reached US$505.3 billion, a new record for the 10-month period. If the current trend is maintained, Korea’s annual exports are expected to surpass the US$600 billion milestone for the first time.
Imports jumped 27.9 percent on-year to $48.42 billion in October, generating a trade surplus of $6.55 billion and extending the surplus streak to 81 months.
By item, exports of oil products showed the highest growth rate of 75.5 percent, followed by general machinery (51.7 percent), petrochemicals (42.9 percent), auto parts (36.9 percent), automotive (35.7 percent), and semiconductors (22.2 percent).
Semiconductor exports reached US$11.59 billion in October, the second highest monthly figure in history. Korea shipped semiconductors worth more than $10 billion for the sixth consecutive month.
Exports of general machinery surged 51.7 percent to US$4.99 billion, setting an all-time high. Shipments of petroleum goods also posted a record high of $4.49 billion, aided by strong demand and rising oil prices.
The items that suffered a setback in exports included wireless communication equipment (-18.2 percent), displays (-7.9 percent) and vessels (-55.0 percent). The decline was attributed to the expansion of overseas production and sluggish sales.
By region, exports increased in all regions except the Middle East. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) showed the steepest increase rate of 85.2 percent, followed by Japan (50.5 percent), India (48.6 percent), the U.S. (47.6 percent), Central and South America (45.1 percent), and China (17.7 percent).
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy predicted Korea’s exports will remain on an upward curve for the time being on the back of the upturn of the global manufacturing industry and the continued rise in unit prices of major items due to the rise in oil prices.
However, the ministry said there are downside risks as well stemming from the prolonged trade conflict between the U.S. and China, increased volatility in the global financial market due to continued U.S. interest rate hikes, and an economic slowdown in emerging countries.