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(LEAD) S. Korea's exports expected to surge 20-30 pct in Q1

All Headlines 14:58 February 23, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details from para 2)

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports are expected to surge 20-30 percent on-year in the first quarter, which could help the country pull off a trade surplus of around US$8 billion by June, the government said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a meeting with export business umbrella groups such as the Korea International Trade Association that despite jitters caused by the financial crisis in some European countries, and concerns of rising crude oil prices, outbound shipments have continued to do well compared to 2009.

Without going into details, it said exports in February are expected to post double digit gains, contributing to overall growth. Of the country's 13 leading export industries, which include mobile communications, semiconductors, cars and displays, only the ship building sector is expected to post negative growth from January through March.

The assessment is based on the global economy attaining 3.1 percent annual growth this year, and with South Korea's GDP expanding by 5.0-5.5 percent. Dubai brand crude oil, which makes up the bulk of the country's imports, must also hover at around $80 for the entire year with the foreign exchange rate of the Korean won moving within the 1,100-1,150 range against the U.S. greenback.

"At the current pace and if there are no unforeseen developments, exports could rise above 20 percent in the first three months of this year," a ministry press release said. It said for the entire year, the country's trade surplus could reach $20 billion after hitting $8 billion in the first half.

The overall total is smaller than the record $40.4 billion surplus tallied for last year that was mainly caused by a sharp drop in imports as the country was affected by the worldwide economic slump.

South Korea usually exports more goods in the second half compared to the first six months.

The ministry said although both exports and imports contracted in 2009 from the previous year, outbound shipments for this year may climb 12.9 percent on-year to $410 billion with imports rising 20.8 percent to $390 billion.

It added that Seoul plans to keep close tabs on developments taking place in key economies this year and will regularly check to ensure that trade and investment policies can help local businesses adopt quickly to the change.

Efforts will be made to establish new trade agreements with Latin American, African and Middle Eastern countries, and to cope with moves by China and other countries to expand anti-dumping investigations into locally-made goods.


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