Trade volume nears $987 billion with exports surpassing $500 billion
Korea has arrived at the threshold of $1 trillion in trade volume for the first time ever as government figures show on Thursday that this year’s exports have already topped $500 billion.
As of end-November, the country’s trade volume reached $986.7 billion with exports exceeding $508 billion, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. That lifted surplus to nearly $30 billion when taking $479 billion in imports into account.
The $1 trillion milestone is projected to be set as early as Monday, making Asia’s fourth-largest economy the ninth member of the top trader league, following the U.S., Germany, China, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Italy and the U.K.
“Despite a global economic malaise, exports beat expectations last month on the back of upbeat sales of key items such as ships, petroleum products, steel, cars and displays,” the ministry said in a statement.
In November, exports spiked 13.8 percent from a year before to $47 billion while imports jumped 11.3 percent to $43.1 billion, the ministry said.
Trade surplus edged up about 8 percent to $3.9 billion on a year-on-year basis, marking a 22nd straight month in the black. But it reflects around a 10 percent fall from a month earlier.
Shipment volume for petrol products surged a whopping 46.2 percent last month from a year ago. Figures for automobiles and steel products also soared 30.4 percent and 21.7 percent each during the same month.
By destination, all regions except Europe took more shipments compared with a year earlier. Exports to the U.S. soared more than 25 percent, the Middle East nearly 19 percent and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations 15.5 percent.
Meanwhile, imports of crude oil and raw materials jumped last month but the pace slowed a bit due to unseasonable warm weather, the ministry noted.
Korea, which relies on imports for almost all its energy needs, brought in crude oil worth nearly $7.9 billion in November, up almost 25 percent on-year. Imports of coal and petrol products shot up nearly 50 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
Exports have been the main driver behind the country’s rapid economic ascent. Concerns persist over its feeble domestic consumption and service sectors.
Early this week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lowered Korea’s growth outlook to 3.7 percent for this year and 3.8 percent for next year from the previous 4.6 percent and 4.5 percent, citing weak domestic demand, ballooning household debt and excessive reliance on exports among others.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com