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(LEAD) S. Korea's current account surplus almost halves to US$5.94 bln in May

All News 09:10 July 05, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details)

SEOUL, July 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's current account surplus narrowed in May from a year earlier due to a hike in oil prices and an increased deficit in the travel balance, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The country's current account surplus reached US$5.94 billion, compared with a surplus of $10.49 billion a year earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The figure represents the 63rd straight month that the country's balance was in the black. The current account is the biggest measure of cross-border trade.

The BOK said the widening deficit in the travel balance and increased imports of machinery were to blame for the narrowed current account surplus.

The BOK said the travel balance deficit widened to $1.36 billion from a deficit of $250 million in May 2016 due to a rise in overseas trips and a sharp decline in arrivals of foreign tourists.

The travel balance deficit is the highest since July 2015, when the number stood at $1.47 billion in the red.

The number of outbound tourists jumped 21 percent on-year to more than 2 million in May, while foreign visitors to South Korea fell 34.5 percent to 978,000.

It marked the first time that the number of foreign visitors to South Korea fell below 1 million since July 2015, when South Korea was hit hard by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a deadly virus that killed 38 South Koreans.

The primary income account deficit came to $690 million in May from a surplus of $860 million a year earlier.

Exports rose 10.2 percent on-year to $46.9 billion, with imports surging 20.1 percent to $38.06 billion.


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