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(2nd LD) Industrial output, consumption grow in Dec. amid pandemic

All News 09:54 January 29, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info, background in paras 8, 9, 11)
By Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's industrial output, consumption and investment increased on-month in December, data showed Friday, in the latest sign that the country's economy is on a recovery track amid the pandemic.

But stung by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation's industrial production declined last year for the first time since the statistics agency began compiling data in 2000.

The industrial output grew 0.5 percent in December from the previous year, compared with a 0.8 percent on-month gain in November, according to Statistics Korea. From a year earlier, it declined 0.3 percent.

Production in the mining, manufacturing, gas and electricity industries grew 3.7 percent on-month, as production of chips and machinery increased.

This file photo, taken June 4, 2020, shows stacks of import-export cargo containers at South Korea's largest seaport in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Last month, consumption rebounded for the first time since September even as the country toughened virus curbs over a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Retail sales inched up 0.2 percent from a month earlier, a turnaround from a 0.9 percent on-month decline, the data showed.

Facility investment also rose 0.9 percent on-month in December, compared with a 3.5 percent gain the previous month.

"In December, production in the service sector declined amid a flare-up in COVID-19 cases, but the country's overall industrial output gained ground on the back of a boom in the chipmaking industry," Kim Bo-kyoung, a Statistics Korea official, said at a press briefing.

But for the whole of 2020, the country's industrial output fell 0.8 percent on-year, compared with a 0.6 percent on-year gain in the previous year.

Production in the service segment noticeably lost ground with a 2 percent on-year decline.

Retail sales declined 0.2 percent last year as the pandemic dealt a severe blow to the sectors that provide face-to-face services.

"Last year, the nation's overall industrial output fell as production in the face-to-face service industries was severely dented," Kim said.

"But starting in the second half, the industrial output improved on strong exports of chips and other products," she added.

Following slumps caused by the pandemic, the South Korean economy is recovering on the back of robust exports. But recovery remains uneven across sectors, with service segments, such as food services and accommodations, taking a beating from the virus outbreak.

Asia's fourth-largest economy contracted 1 percent last year, the first retreat since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. But its contraction was far smaller than other major advanced economies.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast the Korean economy to grow 3.1 percent this year. The IMF's growth outlook is higher than the 3 percent estimate by the Bank of Korea.

This photo, taken Jan. 26, 2021, shows shops in western Seoul that were shut down over the new coronavirus outbreak. (Yonhap)


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