SEOUL, May 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s exports jumped 41.1 percent in April from a year earlier, the highest growth in around 10 years, as demand for chips and automobiles stayed strong amid the improving global economy, data showed Saturday.
Outbound shipments came to US$51.1 billion last month, compared with $36.2 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
It marked the sharpest on-year monthly growth since January 2011.
Imports rose 33.9 percent to $50.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $390 million. It marked the 12th consecutive month for the country to post a trade surplus.
The latest figure was in line with the market estimate. According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country’s April exports were expected to have risen 40.8 percent on-year.
In 2020, the country’s outbound shipments came to $512.8 billion, down 5.4 percent from 2019.
“South Korean exports, which dropped 26 percent on-year in April last year, rebounded sharply last month on the back of mainstay sectors including chips and automobiles, coupled with emerging goods such as biohealth products and rechargeable batteries,” Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said in a statement.
Exports of chips advanced 30.2 percent on-year in April to $9.3 billion, extending their gains to a whopping 10 consecutive months.
The ministry attributed the growth to rising demand for memory chips for servers from data center operators. Stronger demand for laptops and other electronics amid the COVID-19 pandemic also led to the gains.
Outbound shipments of automobiles shot up 73.4 percent on-year to $4.15 billion despite growing concerns over supply shortages of automotive chips, as local carmakers expanded shipments of premium models such as sports utility vehicles and eco-friendly models.
The stronger demand for electric vehicles also led to an increase in exports of rechargeable batteries, which shot up 28 percent on-year to reach $730 million.
Exports of ships edged up 14.3 percent to reach $1.2 billion as heightened environmental regulations led to more demand for new vessels.
Overseas sales of displays moved up 43.5 percent on pandemic-related demands.
Demand for South Korean biohealth products stayed strong on demand for COVID-19 test kits, reaching $1.1 billion.
South Korea said its exports to China and the United States reached the highest-ever level for any April as well.
Exports to China jumped 31.7 percent to reach $13.3 billion amid the normalization of industrial activities in Asia’s No. 1 economy, which led to stronger sales of chips and petrochemical products.
Shipments to the U.S. also moved up 43 percent to reach $7.54 billion, as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout revived consumer sentiment there. Washington’s economic stimulus packages led to higher demand for South Korean automobiles and home appliances.
The recovery in the global marine shipping segment led to more demand for South Korean ships in the European Union, which led to a 43 percent increase in total exports to the economic bloc.
Exports to Southeast Asia advanced 45.5 percent on-year to reach $8.16 billion as stronger demand for fifth-generation network smartphones led to more shipments of memory chips.
Outbound shipments to Japan increased 23.9 percent on the back of petrochemical and petroleum goods.
Shipments to India more than doubled as its government expanded investment in infrastructure projects.
The South Korean economy, which contracted 1 percent last year due to the new coronavirus outbreak, is expected to grow in the mid-3 percent range on the back of robust outbound shipments, according to the central bank.
But South Korea is bracing for rising freight costs and a possible resurgence of COVID-19 cases around the globe, which may hinder the recovery down the road.