South Korea's exports slipped slightly from a year earlier last month, but its trade surplus grew as imports dropped at a faster rate, the government said Saturday.
The country's outbound shipments edged down 0.2 percent on-year to US$45.58 billion in January, with imports dropping 0.9 percent to $44.85 billion, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The country posted a trade surplus of $735 million last month, keeping its trade account in the black for 24 straight months. The figure compares with a surplus of $476 million posted in the same month last year.
The ministry attributed the drop in overall exports to fewer number of working days due to the three-day Lunar New Year holiday beginning Thursday. The daily average outbound shipments increased 8.9 percent on-year to $2.07 billion from $1.9 billion in January 2013.
"The daily average in January is also higher than the average for the whole of 2013, which came in at $2.05 billion," it said in a press release.
Shipments to European Union countries jumped 24.7 percent on-year in January, partly reflecting Europe's economic recovery, the ministry said.
Exports to the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also surged 9.9 percent on-year, while those to China, the world's largest importer of South Korean products, inched up 0.8 percent.
Shipments to Latin American countries plunged 13.9 percent on-year, an apparent result of the weak Japanese currency eating into the price competitiveness of South Korean products in some of the overseas markets, the ministry noted.
By product, shipments of semiconductors jumped 15.1 percent on-year to $4.64 billion, with those of mobile phones also surging 15.1 percent to $2.45 billion.
Shipments of steel products gained 9.6 percent on-year to $2.97 billion while exports of petroleum products slipped 5.6 percent to $4.65 billion.
Imports shrank from the same month last year in part due to a drop in the number of working days, the ministry noted, adding the daily average amount of imports gained 8.1 percent on-year to about $2.04 billion.
Inbound shipments of crude oil dropped 4.4 percent on-year to some $8.66 billion while those of petroleum products, such as gasoline, spiked 19.9 percent to $3.14 billion.