(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from a BOK official, more information in paras 3, 7-9)
By Byun Duk-kun
SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's current account surplus grew from a year earlier in November as its service account deficit narrowed, while its primary income account surplus expanded, central bank data showed Tuesday.
The country's current account surplus came to US$5.97 billion in the month, up $840 million from the same month last year, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).
November marks the seventh consecutive month the country's current account has been in black. The figure, however, marks a drop from a $7.83 billion surplus posted the month before.
The on-year increase came despite a slight drop in its goods account surplus, which dwindled to $7.39 billion in November from $7.5 billion a year earlier.
South Korea's exports have dropped for 13 consecutive months since December 2018.
In November, exports plunged 10.3 percent on-year to $46.5 billion, while imports dropped 11.7 percent to $39.11 billion.
"The drop in exports was due to a steady decline in the price of the country's key export items, such as semiconductors and petroleum products, amid a continued slump in global trade and the manufacturing industry," Moon So-sang, head of the BOK's monetary and financial statistics division, said in a press briefing.
The export price index of semiconductors tumbled 33 percent on-year in November, while that of petroleum products dipped 7.4 percent, according to the BOK.
Semiconductors and petroleum products together make up nearly 40 percent of South Korea's overall exports.
Its service account, on the other hand, saw its chronic deficit narrow to $1.89 billion from $2.19 billion over the cited period.
The drop in the service account deficit was largely attributed to a decline in the tourism account deficit, helped by a steady increase in the number of visitors from China and Southeast Asian countries.
The country's income in the tourism account grew to $1.63 billion in November from $1.41 billion the same month last year, while its tourism expenditures slipped to $2.59 billion from $2.76 billion over the cited period.
The drop in overseas spending by South Korean tourists apparently came amid a public boycott of visits to Japan, sparked last year by Tokyo's export restrictions on industrial materials used to produce semiconductors and panels, both key export items of South Korea.
In November alone, the number of South Korean visitors to Japan tumbled 65.1 percent from a year earlier to some 210,000, while the overall number of South Koreans going abroad only slipped 9 percent on-year, the BOK noted.
The country's primary income account surplus came to $970 million, up from a $340 million surplus the year before.
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