By Kang Yoon-seung
SEJONG, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports sank 23.7 percent in May in the face of growing economic fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted the global supply chain, data showed Monday.
Outbound shipments came to US$34.8 billion last month, compared with $45.7 billion posted a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Imports also surrendered 21.1 percent to $34.4 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $440 million. The country snapped its 98 straight months of having more exports than imports in April.
The May decline was roughly in line with what the market had expected. According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country's exports were estimated to have dipped by 22.5 percent last month compared with a year earlier.
Exports by Asia's No. 4 economy were expected to rebound from last year's 10 percent drop in annual exports, which was mostly attributable to the weak global chip prices coupled with the Sino-American trade war.
In February, South Korea enjoyed a 4.5 percent rise in its outbound shipments, the first on-year rebound in 14 months.
The recovery, however, was short-lived due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has clobbered the supply chain with lockdowns and social-distancing drives.
The grim export data cast a shadow on South Korea's overall economy.
Last week, the Bank of Korea projected the nation's economy to shrink by 0.2 percent on-year this year on projection that the global COVID-19 pandemic reaches its peak during the second quarter.
But the central bank pointed out that South Korea's economy may contract as much as 1.8 percent if new infections do not plateau by the third quarter.
The South Korean economy grew 2 percent in 2019, marking the slowest expansion since 2009, when it increased 0.8 percent in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
South Korea had some ups and downs in its own number of new coronavirus patients, with the figure experiencing a slight uptick in May due to a rise in new cases traced to clubs and a logistics center.
The country has been considered one of the most successful countries in containing the spread of the highly infectious disease, with around 11,500 COVID-19 patients reported here so far since Jan. 20.
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