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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports jumped 29.6 percent on-year in July to a record high, extending their gains to a ninth consecutive month as the global economy maintained a recovery, data showed Sunday.
Outbound shipments came to US$55.4 billion last month on strong auto and chip sales, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The monthly export volume marked the highest level since South Korea started compiling related data in 1956. The country's exports over the first seven months of 2021 came to $358.7 billion, also setting a fresh high.
Imports climbed 38.2 percent to $53.6 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $1.76. It marked the 15th consecutive month for the country to post a trade surplus.
The July exports came in line with what the market had been expecting.
According to a poll by Yonhap Infomax, the financial arm of Yonhap News Agency, the country's July exports were expected to have risen 29.4 percent on-year.
Overseas sales of chips, the mainstay export product of Asia's No. 4 economy, shot up 39.6 percent over the period to reach $11 billion on the back of growing demand from data centers.
Exports of automobiles also gathered ground, rising 12.3 percent on-year in July to hit $4.1 billion, the data showed, following the eased supply shortages of automotive chips. Sales of high-end models, such as SUVs and electric cars, also improved.
Chips accounted for around 20 percent of the monthly exports, with automobiles taking up 7.4 percent, the data showed.
Other major winners included the petrochemical industry, whose outbound shipments moved up nearly 60 percent to $4.7 billion, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to more production of packages and sanitary items around the globe.
Exports of petroleum products soared a whopping 73 percent as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) failed in reaching an agreement in expanding its production of oil.
Among emerging industries, exports of rechargeable batteries increased more than 30 percent on-year to reach $790 million.
Outbound shipments of bio-health products grew 27.2 percent, as the delta COVID-19 variant led to steady demand for virus test kits.
By destination, exports to China shot up 15.7 percent amid the stronger economic indicators from Asia's No. 1 economy, which led to more shipments of chips, petrochemical goods and display products.
Outbound shipments to the United States moved up 32 percent, as major infrastructure projects led to more demand for South Korean machines. Shipments of auto parts also increased over the period amid the recovery in the production of major assembly lines.
Amid the eased virus measures in the European Union, exports to the world's top economic bloc shot up 44 percent on-year in July.
Amid stronger demand for petroleum products, overseas shipments to Southeast Asia increased 36.8 percent and those to Japan advanced 28 percent.
The ministry said South Korea's exports are anticipated to maintain their growth down the road, citing the recovery of global trade despite the virus pandemic.
"South Korea, however, is still expected to face some hurdles, including the spread of variant strains of the virus, along with supply shortages of parts and the hike in the price of raw materials," the ministry said in a statement.
Last week, the central bank said South Korea's economy grew 0.7 percent on-quarter in the April-June period, after a 1.7 percent expansion in the first quarter.
The bank said South Korea is also on track for a 4 percent expansion this year on the back of the strong recovery of domestic demand and robust exports.
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