The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on June 1 that Korea’s exports in May expanded 45.6 percent to $50.7 billion. Imports went up 37.9 percent to $47.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $2.9 billion.
The improvement in exports was mostly due to an ongoing recovery in the global economy. It is the first time since September 2017 that both the export value and volume posted double-digit increases.
May exports recorded the highest year-on-year growth for the first time in 32 years (since August 1988). The export value increased for seven straight months, exceeding $50.0 billion for three months in a row. It is also the highest value for the month of May on record. Moreover, it is the first time in history that exports went up more than 40 percent for two months in a row.
Daily exports moved up for eight straight months, increasing 49.0 percent to $2.4 billion. It is the highest value for the month of May in history and the third highest monthly value of all time.
Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Moon Sungwook, said, “While Korea’s exports largely depended on major export items such as semiconductors and automobiles last year, intermediate goods have shown balanced growth recently, indicating robust fundamentals.”
Korea’s major export items all recorded growth except for ships. Outbound shipments of semiconductors increased 24.5 percent to $10.0 billion, rising for 11 straight months. Memory chips for mobiles and servers grew in demand due to the expansion of 5G smartphones and investments by data center companies.
Petrochemical products surged 94.9 percent to $4.6 billion on stronger demand for synthetic resins, synthetic raw materials, and synthetic rubbers used in major industries such as automobile, home appliance, and textile.
Automobile exports spiked 93.7 percent to $3.5 billion and increased for five straight months. Despite risks in the automotive chip supply chain, robust shipments to the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) as well as strong sales of high value-added green cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) led to the growth.