SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea posted a current account surplus in May, central bank data showed Tuesday, although its surplus more than halved from a year earlier on a sharp decline in exports caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s current account surplus came to US$2.29 billion in the month, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The reading marks a turnaround from a $3.33 billion deficit posted the previous month, the largest deficit since January 2011.

However, it also marks a sharp drop from a $5.18 billion surplus posted in May 2019.

The goods account surplus narrowed to $2.5 billion in May from a $5.5 billion surplus a year before amid a steady decline in exports, apparently caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea’s exports, on a customs-clearance basis, plunged 23.6 percent on-year to $34.9 billion in May, compared with $45.7 billion for the same month last year, according to the BOK.

Its imports dropped 21 percent to $34.46 billion from $43.62 billion over the cited period.

Its service account balance, on the other hand, slightly improved, posting a $480 million deficit, narrowing from a deficit of $950 million in May 2019.

The narrowed service account deficit was largely attributed to improvements in the travel and transport accounts.

The country’s travel account deficit sharply narrowed to $160 million from a $750 million deficit a year earlier, and also from a $350 million deficit in April.

The BOK said the number of South Koreans going overseas plunged 98.4 percent on-year to some 38,000 in May.

The number of visitors to the country dropped 97.9 percent to some 31,000 in the month.

The country’s primary income account surplus narrowed to $540 million in May from $1.29 billion in May 2019, “in line with a decrease in the income from dividends,” the BOK said.