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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports rose 11.4 percent on-year in January to extend their on-year gains for a third consecutive month on the back of brisk demand for chips and cars, data showed Monday, though the global resurgence of new virus cases hindered a full-fledged recovery.
Exports came to US$48 billion last month, compared with $43 billion a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Imports edged up 3.1 percent to $44 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $3.96 billion. It marked the nine consecutive month for the country to post a trade surplus.
The January figure beat market expectations. According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country's January exports were expected to have risen 9.7 percent on-year.
By segments, outbound shipments of chips advanced 21.7 percent on-year, expanding on-year for the fifth consecutive month.
Autos were also among major winners. Exports of automobiles increased 40.2 percent on-year, marking the sharpest growth since September 2017.
Exports of mobile devices and display products shot up 58 percent and 32.3 percent over the period, respectively, the data showed.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, exports of biohealth products, which cover virus test kits, increased 66.5 percent on-year.
Outbound shipments of petrochemical products rebounded 8.6 percent, marking the first growth in more than two years.
By destinations, exports to China rose 22 percent, while those to the United States advanced 46.1 percent.
Shipments to the European Union gained 23.9 percent.
In December, the monthly exports advanced 12.6 percent on-year to reach $51.4 billion. It marked the first time since November 2018 for the export volume to surpass the $50 billion mark.
South Korean exports had extended their slump to a sixth month in a row in August due to the COVID-19 fallout before rebounding in September on increased shipments of chips. In October, exports again tumbled due to a resurgence in the virus. In the following month, exports again rebounded.
Last year, the country's outbound shipments came to $512.8 billion, down 5.4 percent from 2019. The South Korean economy, Asia's fourth-largest, suffered a 1 percent retreat last year, marking the sharpest-ever contraction since the 1997 financial crisis.
The central bank expects Asia's fourth-largest economy to grow 3 percent this year on the back of the recovery of exports.
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