South Korean export ended 2020 in negative growth for the second year in a row, but outlook brightened with exports turnover in December at an all-time high for the final month of the year.
Outbound shipments in December jumped 12.6 percent from a year earlier to $51.41 billion, the best December performance, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy reported.
Monthly exports slumped for six straight months from March as the coronavirus ravaged global trade. Shipments briefly jumped 7.3 percent in September, only to slide 3.8 percent in the following month. Exports in November turned positive again, rising 4.1 percent, and extended the gains in December.
Exports in the second half of 2020 came to a $272.2 billion surplus. This helped trim the losses of the first half when exports had plunged more than 10 percent. Korea closed the year with exports at $512.8 billion, down 5.4 percent.
Imports fell 7.2 percent to $467.2 billion to generate a trade surplus of $45.6 billion.
The outlook for the new year has brightened with robust rebound in December.
Daily exports counting in the number of working days averaged $2.14 billion in December, up 7.9 percent from a year ago.
Eleven of the 15 export pillars posted an export surplus.
The biggest drivers of growth were semiconductors and IT components. Chip exports surged 30.0 percent, extending the gains for the sixth consecutive month. Display shipments rose 28.0 percent to $2.11 billion, hitting a monthly record for the year. Exports of wireless communication devices jumped 39.8 percent, home appliances 23.4 percent and computers 14.7 percent. Exports in the biotech and healthcare sector, including Covid-19 diagnostic kits, climbed for 16 months in a row.
Some of the losers were petroleum goods, whose shipments plunged 36.5 percent on weak international crude prices. Automobiles fell 4.4 percent and steel 7.8 percent.
Exports rose in seven of the nine major markets. The biggest gains came from the U.S., with exports up 11.6 percent. China, Korea’s biggest market, also grew 3.3 percent.
Experts warn that the resurgence of the coronavirus and a delay in vaccination could cloud Korea’s export prospects. Korea Economic Research Institute estimated the country’s exports to fall 3.3 percent if infection numbers continue to rise and vaccination takes longer than expected, in which case total exports could tumble by as much as 8.3 percent this year.
By Oh Chan-jong
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]