South Korea's current account surplus sharply increased from a year earlier in February, as its goods account surplus widened while its service account deficit slightly narrowed, central bank data showed Tuesday.
The country's current account surplus came to $6.41 billion in the month, up from a $3.85 billion surplus the same month last year, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).
Its goods account surplus widened to $6.58 billion from $5.42 billion over the cited period, helped by the first rise in exports in 15 months.
South Korea's outbound shipments had dropped for 14 consecutive months before gaining 4.5 percent on-year in February.
The country's exports added 4.3 percent on-year to $41.18 billion in the month on a customs clearance basis, according to the central bank.
Imports gained 1.5 percent to $37.2 billion.
Its service account deficit, on the other hand, narrowed to $1.45 billion from $1.54 billion in February 2019, "owing to an improvement in the travel and transport account," the BOK said.
The tourism industry began to see sharp drops in the number of people coming to and from South Korea after the country reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Jan. 20.
In February, South Korea's tourism account deficit narrowed to $570 million from $840 million the same month last year, according to the BOK.
The number of South Koreans going abroad came to about 1.05 million in the month, down 60 percent from 2.62 million in the same month last year.
The number of foreign visitors to South Korea, on the other hand, slipped at a much slower rate of 43 percent on-year to about 690,000 in February.
"Both the number of departures and arrivals dropped sharply on the spread of COVID-19. The country's tourism account balance improved because the number of people going abroad shrank by a greater margin than people coming to the country," Moon So-sang, head of the BOK's monetary and financial statistics division, said in a press briefing.
South Korea has confirmed 10,331 COVID-19 infections as of Tuesday. Some 170 countries have banned or placed restrictions on the entry of people arriving from South Korea.
The primary income account surplus came to $1.25 billion in February, compared with a surplus of $450 million a year earlier. (Yonhap)