South Korea's cigarette exports rose sharply to surpass the $1 billion mark for the first time last year on growing demand from the Middle East and Japan, the latest customs data showed Wednesday.
The total value of tobacco exports reached a record $1.01 billion in 2016, up 11 percent from the previous year's $914 million, according to the data compiled by the Korea Customs Service.
The figure has been on a sharp rise at an average on-year growth of 20.2 percent during the 2014-2016 period.
The United Arab Emirates is the biggest importer of South Korean cigarettes, with $375 million worth of products shipped to the Middle East country last year, up 22.8 percent from a year earlier.
Exports to Japan also gained 6.7 percent on-year to $143 million last year, while the United States imported $104 million worth of South Korean cigarettes, up 13 percent from a year ago.
Meanwhile, South Korea imported a record $414 million worth of foreign cigarettes and tobacco leaves in 2016, up 20.8 percent on-year, the data showed. (Yonhap)