The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on May 1 that South Korea’s exports totaled US$48.86 billion last month, down 2 percent from a year ago, and decreased year on year for the fifth consecutive month. The back-to-back decline is the longest one since the country’ exports fell for 19 months in a row from October 2014 to July 2016.
South Korea’s exports fell 1.7 percent year on year in December last year and the rate of decrease was 6.2 percent, 11.4 percent, 8.2 percent and 2 percent in the following months. Semiconductor exports fell 13.5 percent to US$8.45 billion last month with the stagnant demand in China and data center-related inventory adjustment by global IT companies causing the unit price of the item to drop 51.6 percent.
The petrochemical product export volume rose 7.6 percent, yet the export unit price of the item went down 5.7 percent due to an increase in supply from the United States and a sluggish global demand.
The ministry explained that nine out of the 20 major export items of South Korea showed an increase in exports. For example, automobile exports rose 5.8 percent, led by SUVs and green cars, while ship exports jumped 53.6 percent mainly by LNG carriers and very large crude carriers. General machinery exports edged up 0.3 percent with the U.S. construction market booming and secondary battery and bio-health product exports increased 13.4 percent and 23.3 percent, respectively.
South Korea’s exports to China decreased 4.5 percent, falling for the sixth consecutive month. For reference, the rate of decrease was 19 percent in January, 17.3 percent in February, and 15.6 percent in March.
Those to the ASEAN region edged down by 1 percent with exports from ASEAN member countries to China falling. Those to the United States increased 3.9 percent, led by automobiles, machinery and 5G communications equipment, to rise for seven months in a row.
The ministry explained that South Korea’s export volume increased 2.5 percent last month. However, the monthly exports converted into the U.S. dollar remained negative with trade conditions deteriorating and the export unit price of semiconductors falling. The non-semiconductor exports increased 0.8 percent last month. The country’s imports, which declined year on year for the first three months of this year, rose last month, when it posted a trade surplus of US$4.12 billion to remain in the black for the 87th consecutive month.