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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports rebounded by rising 4 percent in November on-year on the back of strong sales of chips, data showed Tuesday, though a resurgence in new virus cases still poses risks of delaying a full-fledged recovery.
Outbound shipments came to US$45.8 billion last month, compared with $44 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Imports fell 2.1 percent to $39.8 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $5.93 billion.
It marked the seventh consecutive month for Asia's No. 4 economy to post a trade surplus.
The latest figure slightly falls short of market expectations. According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country's November exports were expected to have risen 6.6 percent on-year.
South Korea attributed the rebound in outbound shipments to robust overseas sales of chips and other information and technology products.
"Amid strong performance of mainstay products such as chips and automobiles, it is significant that exports of IT-related products also gathered ground amid the boom of the contact-free economy," Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said in a statement.
By segment, outbound shipments of chips rose 16.4 percent on-year in November to reach $8.5 billion, gaining for a fifth consecutive month. Chips accounted for around 19 percent of total monthly exports.
The increase came on the back of the release of new mobile devices, along with stronger demand from laptop producers, as more people worked from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overseas sales of other IT products gathered ground, with those of displays jumping 21.4 percent to reach $1.9 billion. Those of mobile devices climbed 20.2 percent.
Exports of automobiles advanced 2.1 percent to reach $3.9 billion due to the strong demand for sport utility vehicles and eco-friendly models.
Outbound shipments of ships jumped 32.6 percent over the period on the improved demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels.
Those of petroleum goods, however, halved on-year in November due to the falling price of crude. Exports of petrochemical products slipped 8.3 percent.
Exports of biohealth products spiked 78.5 percent on-year to $1.4 billion due to robust sales of COVID-19 test kits.
With more people eating at home, exports of agricultural goods also advanced 10.5 percent over the period.
By destinations, outbound shipments to China edged up 1 percent as the world's No. 2 economy continued to recover from the pandemic.
Exports to the United States rose 6.8 percent as businesses became more confident over Washington's efforts to revitalize its virus-hit economy.
The two countries accounted for around 40 percent of South Korea's total exports.
Those to the European Union increased 24.6 percent on robust demand for machines, auto parts and mobile devices, the data showed.
Exports to Japan, however, fell 12 percent due to the weaker facility investment by Japanese firms.
South Korean exports posted their first on-year rebound in 14 months in February, but the recovery was short-lived as the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to key export products.
Asia's fourth-largest economy extended its slump in exports to a sixth month in August, before rebounding 7.3 percent in September on increased shipments of chips and automobiles. In October, exports moved down 3.8 percent due to fewer working days and a resurgence in the virus.
The country's central bank, meanwhile, revised up this year's economic outlook last week on signs of a modest recovery in exports.
The bank expected the economy to shrink 1.1 percent this year, compared with the previous forecast of a 1.3 percent retreat.
"Currently, South Korea's exports are on the path of recovery, and the trend is anticipated to continue down the road," Na Seung-sik, deputy minister for trade and investment, said during a press briefing.
"However, the resurgence of virus cases and the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing still pose risks," he added.
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