The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) announced on October 1 that South Korea’s exports reached an all-time high of USD 55.1 billion in September, soaring 35 percent from a year earlier.
The strongest performance since the South Korean government started tracking trade data in 1956 was achieved as exports of semiconductors and steel hit record highs and various sectors posted double-digit growths in exports.
The growth rate is the highest in 80 months since January 2011, and monthly exports expanded at a double-digit rate for the ninth consecutive month for the first time in 72 months since September 2011. The average daily exports also reached a record $2.4 billion, surging 20.6 percent.
Exports in the third quarter of September from July to September also jumped 24 percent, the fastest pace since the first quarter of 2011, to a record $151 billion.
MOTIE, Minister Paik Un-gyu noted the upward trend in exports despite challenges facing the Korean economy.
“Amid external and internal uncertainties such as the North Korean nuclear crisis, the monthly exports and average daily exports in September reached record highs in 61 years since the government started compiling data,” Minister Paik said.
The Minister Paik added "the government will continue to make efforts to improve export policies so that exports do not just expand in size but also make a greater, wider contribution to the domestic economy including job creation and growth of small and medium businesses.”
A breakdown of exports shows that 10 out of Korea’s 13 major industry sectors posted double-digit growths in overseas shipments and shipments to all major markets increased.
Semiconductor exports leaped 70 percent to a record $9.7 billion, breaking the previous record of $8.8 billion set just a month earlier and surpassing the $9-billion mark for the first time. This was led by rising prices of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips and demand driven by the launch of new smartphones.
Steel exports more than doubled to an all-time high of $4.7 billion on increasing prices of steel products and a shipment of large steel structure to Norway.
Overseas shipments of other major products including automobiles, petroleum products, petrochemicals, ships, general machinery, computers, textile, and displays grew at double-digit rates. While semiconductor exports had led the growth in exports of goods in the past months, exports excluding semiconductors jumped 29.3 percent in September
Furthermore, outbound shipments of all three high-value, high-tech goods, whose export data the Ministry separately keep tracking of, reached record-highs. Exports of multi-chip packages (MCPs) soared 58.9 percent to $2.5 billion, while those of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays and solid-state drives (SSDs) advanced 56.2 percent to $1 billion and 42.7 percent to $540 million, respectively.
Exports to all regions except the Middle East rose at double-digit rates, with shipments to Southeast Asia and Vietnam reaching record highs.
Shipments to Vietnam spiked 69.4 percent to a record $4.7 billion, marking the 19th consecutive month of growth. Vietnam’s investment into infrastructure boosted steel exports, and shipments of semiconductors, general machinery, and displays to Korean companies’ manufacturing bases in the country continued to expand.
Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region surged 44.8 percent to an all-time high of $9.1 billion on strong demand for memory semiconductors and OLED displays.
China imported Korean-produced goods worth $13.5 billion, the highest figure since October 2014, up 23.4 percent from a year earlier. Exports to China expanded for 11 consecutive months.
Exports to developed economies also grew at a strong pace. Shipments to the U.S. rose by 28.9 percent to $6.6 billion, while those to the EU and Japan advanced 23 percent to $4.7 billion and 16 percent to $2.5 billion, respectively.
Imports increased 21.7 percent to $41.4 billion on larger purchases of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, bituminous coal, and zinc ore. They expanded double-digit rates for nine consecutive months.
Trade surplus came to $13.8 billion, making Korea a net exporter for 68 consecutive months.