The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has replaced the United States and Europe as South Korea's biggest export market for the second month in a row in January, government data showed Sunday.
ASEAN's 10 member countries accounted for 14.5 percent of South Korea's exports in January, compared with 12.4 percent for Europe and 11.6 percent for North America, according to the Korea International Trade Association.
South Korea's exports to the ASEAN nations have been on the rise since its portion was at the 9-percent level in 2006, but its shipments to the U.S. and Europe have declined from some 20 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in 2002, the association noted.
Seoul's exports declined 1.3 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, but its overseas shipments to the ASEAN market grew 10.4 percent, data by the customs agency showed.
Analysts said that the trend mainly came as demand for Korean products in the U.S. and Europe has dwindled due to the 2008 global financial crisis and the eurozone debt crisis.
"The ASEAN countries are showing strong growth momentum among major economic blocs. Korea's exports to those nations are likely to follow a rising trend in the long term," Park Sang-hyun, a senior economist at HI Investment & Securities Co.
The ASEAN countries' economic growth and their cheap labor have been luring foreign capital and leading other developing countries to relocate their overseas factories from China to those countries, analysts say.
The five major ASEAN countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines -- posted yearly economic growth of above 5 percent between 1999 and 2008. (Yonhap News)