The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on Feb. 1 that South Korea’s exports totaled US$43.35 billion in January this year, down 6.1 percent from a year ago. For reference, exports fell 5.2 percent year on year to US$45.72 billion in December last year.
The ministry explained that last month’s decline is due to fewer business days rather than the Wuhan coronavirus. “In January 2020, the number of business days was 2.5 days less than in January 2019 due to New Year’s holidays and the impact of the coronavirus on the monthly exports was rather limited,” the ministry said. In 2018, South Korea’s exports to Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, accounted for only 0.3 percent of South Korea’s total exports.
The ministry also said that South Korea’s average daily exports for last month were US$2.02 billion and increased 4.8 percent from a year ago, showing an increase for the first time in 14 months. A decline in semiconductor exports dropped from 17.7 percent to 3.4 percent from December 2019 to January 2020.
According to the government, this month’s exports are expected to grow year on year based on the lack of holidays. Experts, in the meantime, point out that the coronavirus will frustrate the expectations. “The Chinese economy’s proportion in the global export market has quadrupled since the spread of SARS in 2003, which means the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus on South Korea’s exports will be far greater,” one of them said. At present, China is the largest export destination for South Korea, accounting for 25 percent of its total exports.