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S. Korea logs trade surplus on sound exports in Jan.

South Korea's trade balance made a positive turnaround from a year earlier last month as the growth of its exports outpaced that of imports, the government said Friday.

The country's exports surged 11.8 percent from the same period last year to US$46.08 billion in January, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Imports grew 3.9 percent on-year to $45.21 billion, leaving a $874 million trade surplus.

Last month's trade surplus compares with a $2.3 billion deficit posted in the same month last year.

The ministry, however, attributed the large growth in exports to an increase in the number of working days.

"Though total exports increased 11.8 percent from a year earlier, this was largely due to an increase in the number of working days (by two days) and a base effect stemming from a 7.3 percent on-year drop (in January 2012)," it said in a press release. The ministry noted the growth of the average of daily exports on working days rather slowed from 7.5 percent in December 2012 to 2.5 percent last month.

Last month's trade surplus is also the smallest since February 2012, it said.

The ministry said the continued appreciation of the local currency against the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen was beginning to hurt the competitiveness of local exporters.

The Korean won's appreciation against the hard currencies means South Korean products sold overseas become more expensive, thus undermining the price competitiveness as well as profitability of their producers.

"Considering that the growth of the average of daily exports is slowing down, it appears the appreciation of the Korean won that has continued since late last year is beginning to negatively affect the country's exports," it said. (Yonhap News)