South Korea’s exports topped US$50 billion in November for the seventh consecutive month. This year’s total exports are highly likely to exceed US$600 billion for the first time ever.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy announced on Dec. 1 that exports totaled US$51.92 billion last month, up 4.5% from a year earlier. Korea’s cumulative exports from January to November this year rose 6.2% to US$557.2 billion.
The nation’s imports increased 11.4% to US$46.78 billion last month. As a result, Korea’s trade surplus in November fell 33.2% year on year to US$5.14 billion.
Among the country’s 13 major export items, ship exports recorded the highest increase rate with 158.4%, followed by petroleum products (23.5%), semiconductors (11.6%), petrochemicals (3.8%), steel (2.7%) and general machinery (0.8%). Especially, semiconductor exports, which account for 20% of South Korea’s total exports, reached US$10.68 billion last month.
Although emiconductor exports topped US$10 billion for seven months in a row, the rate of increase hit this year’s low. For reference, the rate was 39% in June and 22.1% in October. The Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade recently forecast that semiconductor export growth would be limited to 9.3% next year whereas it was 34% from Jan. 1 to Nov. 20 this year.
The other seven items showed a decline in exports. For example, wireless communications equipment fell 42.2%, followed by consumer electronics (16.8%), computers (10.8%), displays (10%), automobiles (2%), textile (0.8%) and auto parts (0.5%). Automobile exports fell due to sluggish exports to the Middle East and European environmental regulations. Displays, consumer electronics and wireless communications equipment fell due to severe competition and an increase in overseas production.
By destination, exports to the ASEAN region rose 13%, the United States 7.9%, the EU 23.7%, Japan 9.4%, Vietnam 2.6%, India 11.8%, and the CIS region 46.2%. The monthly exports to the ASEAN region hit an all-time high of US$9.41 billion, led by semiconductor, petroleum product and display. Those to Indonesia and Russia also increased 7.2% and 18.7%, respectively.