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(2nd LD) S. Korea's April exports sink 24 pct over virus pandemic

All News 10:12 May 01, 2020

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By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, May 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports plunged 24.3 percent in April from a year earlier as the country suffered from a double whammy of the new coronavirus pandemic and the falling oil prices, data showed Friday.

Outbound shipments came to US$36.9 billion last month, compared with $48.7 billion posted a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Imports moved down 15.9 percent on-year in April to $37.8 billion.

The country suffered a trade deficit of $950 million in April, snapping its 98 straight months of having more exports than imports.

(2nd LD) S. Korea's April exports sink 24 pct over virus pandemic - 1

The COVID-19 pandemic that has further made its way across the globe over the month has clobbered the supply chain, with lockdowns and social-distancing drives hindering business activities around the world.

The falling global price of oil has also weighed down exports of petrochemical products, some of the country's key export items.

South Korea also attributed the weak outbound shipments to the fewer number of working days in the month compared to a year earlier, along with a higher base effect.

Outbound shipments of chips, the mainstay export good, decreased 15 percent to $7.1 billion due to the slowing global economy and falling demand for new mobile devices amid the pandemic.

Exports of petrochemical products also dipped 33.6 percent over the period to $2.5 billion, while those of petroleum goods halved on-year to $1.6 billion, due mainly to the falling global oil costs that slashed the export prices as well.

Shipments of automobiles surrendered 36.3 percent to $2.4 billion as major dealers around the globe shut down their operations amid lockdowns.

Exports of biohealth products, however, shot up 29 percent over the period amid soaring demand for South Korean test kits for COVID-19. Outbound shipments of computers also doubled on-year as more people worked from home, the data showed.

By destinations, its outbound shipments lost ground in all major countries due to the pandemic, including China, the United States, and Europe.

Exports to China, the top trading partner, decreased 17.9 percent amid falling demand amid the virus spread.

Outbound shipments to the U.S. also moved down 13.5 percent as it refrained from launching new infrastructure and construction projects, leading to less demand for South Korean machines.

Monthly exports rebounded 4.5 percent in February on-year to end their 14 months of decrease despite increasing virus fallout. But the country's exports fell 0.2 percent in the following month.

(2nd LD) S. Korea's April exports sink 24 pct over virus pandemic - 2

South Korea's exports dropped more than 10 percent in 2019.

The country's outbound shipments had been anticipated to rebound 3 percent this year on the eased trade war between the United States and China. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has dashed such hope.

The country's economy grew 2 percent last year, the lowest in a decade. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted last month South Korea's economy will shrink 1.2 percent this year, a sharp cut from 2.2 percent growth suggested in January.

The virus has infected more than 3 million around the world so far, although the number of new infections slowed in South Korea.

The country added only four cases Thursday, compared with a peak of 909 on Feb. 29, indicating the recovery of its exports will depend on how effectively other countries tackle the pandemic and normalize the supply chain.

"Since South Korea is considered a stable manufacturing hub on the back of its success in handling COVID-19, the country's exports will rebound once the global pandemic is put under control," Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said in a statement.

colin@yna.co.kr
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