Back To Top

S. Korea’s exports fail to recover in May


South Korea’s exports continued to fall in May, marking a double-digit percentage decline for the second consecutive month, according to a government report on Monday.

The extended decline was largely due to the global economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry explained. Shipments of semiconductor products, however, bounced back, which alleviated the extended decline, it added.

The nation’s outbound shipments in May dropped by 23.7 percent on-year to $34.8 billion, compared to $45.7 billion a year earlier, according to the data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The daily average export amount during the month was $1.6 billion, an 18.4 percent drop from a year ago.

South Korea’s trade surplus in May marked some $400 million, returning from a trade deficit of $1.39 billion in April -- the country’s first trade deficit in 99 months.

The trade surplus came as the nation imported less in May, the ministry explained. The nation’s imports in May totaled $34.4 billion, decreasing by 21.1 percent. Imports of oil and gas products decreased by 68.4 percent and 36 percent, respectively, leading the drop.

Imports of capital goods, on the other hand, increased by 9.1 percent, according to the data. Imports of semiconductor production equipment, in particular, increased by 167.8 percent.

“The increase in imports of capital goods in May shows that local firms are continuing their economic activities,” the ministry said.

Korea’s semiconductor exports began recovering in May, helped by increasing demand in computer products. The shipments of semiconductors increased by 7.1 percent to reach $8 billion. The daily shipments of semiconductor products also rose by 14.5 percent.

Outbound shipments of computer products soared by 82.7 percent due to the increasing demand for solid-state drives as well as the global expansion of online education and telecommuting platforms.

Korea’s exports of bio products also went up by 59.4 percent to reach $1.17 billion, backed by the growing popularity of the nation’s epidemic prevention measures, including COVID-19 test kits.

However, automobile exports plunged by 54.1 percent to $1.8 billion as global demand dipped.

Korea’s exports of petrochemical products fell by 34.3 percent, attributed to a sharp decline in global oil prices. Local petrochemical firms’ maintenance shutdowns also influenced the exports, the ministry said.

By nation, exports to China declined 2.8 percent due to weak exports of machines, textiles, displays and petrochemical products.

Exports to second-largest trade partner the US slumped 29 percent. The sluggish sales of automobiles and home appliances had negative effects, the ministry said. Exports of petrochemical products remained poor, as demand for air travel stayed weak as well.

Shipments to the European Union and Southeast Asian countries fell 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

“Korea’s exports to other nations are expected to bounce back when the nation’s key trade partners start to recover from the economic fallout from the coronavirus,” the ministry said.

By Shim Woo-hyun (