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Korea’s exports see first on-year rebound in 13 months

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Containers are stakcked at a pier in the port city of Busan on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
Containers are stakcked at a pier in the port city of Busan on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

Korea’s exports grew 5.1 percent in October, marking their first on-year rebound in 13 months. Growth was driven by strong automobile exports and recovery in the chip sector, according to data that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy released on Wednesday.

On-year exports reached $55 billion last month, while imports fell 9.7 percent over the same period to $53.4 billion. Korea logged a trade surplus of $1.64 billion in October, continuing to stay positive since June.

Automobile exports advanced 19.8 percent last month, continuing 16 straight months of upward trajectory. Outbound shipments of general machinery grew 10.4 percent, rising for seven consecutive months. Those of ships and displays increased for the third consecutive month, advancing 101.4 percent and 15.5 percent respectively.

Chip exports continued to decelerate, falling 3.1 percent — the smallest decline since August of last year.

Exports to China, Korea’s top trading partner, fell 9.5 percent on year to reach $11 billion in October due to weak performance of steel products and display panels.

Exports to the United States advanced 17.3 percent to $10.1 billion in a record October performance. Growth was driven by strong shipments of electric vehicles, mobile devices and other machinery.

Exports to the European Union fell 10.7 percent to $5 billion due to weak demand for steel and machinery.

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Imports fell nearly 10 percent on an annual basis, driven by a plunge in gas and coal. Those products fell 54.3 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively.

The ministry attributed the export rebound to deals in the Middle East, including Hyundai Engineering & Construction’s recent agreement with Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco to construct a gas processing plant in Saudi Arabia’s Jafurah gas field.

“Korea’s exports managed to make a turnaround while maintaining trade surplus despite challenging external conditions, including globally high interest rates, U.S.-China competition, restructuring of supply chain, Israel-Hamas incident and high oil price,” said Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Bang Moon-kyu.

Bang added that strong exports will continue to drive Korea’s growth. The government will continue efforts to prevent other potential risk factors — such as China’s export control of graphite, an element essential to the production of secondary batteries — from negatively impacting Korea’s exports, he said.

Exports saw an on-year fall between October 2022 and September 2023 amid restrictive monetary policies in major economies, which were largely efforts to tame inflation.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]