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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports jumped 39.7 percent on-year in June to extend their gains to an eighth consecutive month on the back of a recovery in global business activities, which led to stronger demand for chips and automobiles, data showed Thursday.
Outbound shipments came to US$54.8 billion last month, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Imports climbed 40.7 percent to $50.3 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $4.44 billion. It marked the 14th consecutive month for the country to post a trade surplus.
The June exports were better than what the market had been expecting.
According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country's June exports were expected to have risen 35.7 percent on-year.
By segment, exports of chips came to $11.1 billion, soaring 34.4 percent on-year. It marked the second consecutive month for the volume to exceed the $10 billion threshold.
The ministry said the chip export growth especially came as global data centers expanded their investment.
Outbound shipments of automobiles also soared 62.5 percent to reach $4 billion, as global demand returned to the pre-pandemic levels.
The low-interest rate policies in the United States and Europe led to a recovery in consumer sentiment as well, leading to more demand for premium models, including electric cars and sport utility vehicles.
Sales of auto parts more than doubled over the period to reach $1.96 billion on the back of strong demand from China and the U.S.
Overseas shipments of petroleum products jumped 79.6 percent, and the biohealth sector boasted solid growth as well, expanding 13.5 percent on-year on the back of strong demand for COVID-19 test kits.
Other major winners included rechargeable batteries, whose exports rose 39.4 percent over the period on the back of Washington's eco-friendly policies.
By destination, exports to China moved up 14.3 percent to $13 billion, as factories in Asia's No. 1 economy were mostly normalized.
Exports to the U.S. spiked 51.9 percent to $8.71 billion as the recovery of the world's top economy led to more demand for automobiles and chips.
Outbound shipments to the European Union also gathered ground, rising 65.3 percent as major members lifted lockdowns amid progress in vaccinations.
Over the first six months of 2021, South Korea's exports increased 26.1 percent to $303 billion, setting a new record for any first-half period.
Earlier this week, South Korea's finance ministry sharply raised its 2021 growth outlook for the country's economy amid robust exports and reviving consumption.
The government forecast Asia's fourth-largest economy to expand 4.2 percent this year, up from its December estimate of 3.2 percent.
The ministry, however, said the shortages in the supply of shipping services and the hike in the price of raw materials remain some of the hurdles for South Korean exports.
Outbound shipments are expected to reach up to US$610 billion this year, up 19 percent from 2020, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
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