South Korea exports post biggest gain in over 2 decades

Published: Monday, February 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 at 1:49 a.m.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's exports surged in January, posting their biggest gain in more two than decades as shipments of auto parts, semiconductors and consumer electronics rose amid the global economic recovery.

Exports increased 47.1 percent to $31.08 billion in January from the same month the year before, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Monday. That was the biggest gain since South Korean exports rose of 52.6 percent in August of 1988, said ministry official So Myoung-hee.

Auto parts soared 158 percent from a year earlier, while semiconductors jumped 121.6 percent and liquid crystal devices gained 103.4 percent, the ministry said. Consumer electronics, petrochemicals and automobiles all racked up double-digit percentage increases.

Mobile phones and ships, however, failed to keep pace, declining 2.1 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively.

The gain in exports, however, could not prevent South Korea's first monthly trade deficit in a year as higher oil prices and increased fuel demand for heating and power generation amid colder temperatures pushed up the country's import bill.

Imports increased 26.7 percent in January to $31.55 billion, the ministry said, resulting in a deficit of $468 million compared with a surplus of $3.09 billion in December.

South Korea last recorded a deficit in January 2009 when the trade balance was $3.76 billion in the red.

So, the ministry official, said imports rose due to higher oil prices and colder temperatures.

She said the average temperature in Seoul was minus 4.5 degrees Celsius in January, compared with minus 2 degrees Celsius the year before.

In a statement, the ministry called the trade deficit figure an "appropriate level."

The trade figures are preliminary and subject to revision.

South Korea recorded a trade surplus of $40.45 billion in 2009 following a deficit in 2008, its first since 1997 during the Asian financial crisis.

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