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(2nd LD) S. Korea's exports rise 25.8 pct in 2021 to hit all-time high

All News 10:42 January 01, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 2, 8, 11-17)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Jan. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports rose 25.8 percent in 2021 from the previous year to reach an all-time high on the back of solid demand for chips and petroleum products amid a global economic recovery, the industry ministry said Saturday.

Outbound shipments stood at US$644.54 billion last year, compared with $512.5 billion a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. It is the first time in three years that the country's exports marked an on-year growth.

It marked the highest annual figure since the country began compiling trade related data in 1956. The previous record was set in 2018, when the figure came to $604.9 billion.

The country's exports surpassed the $100 million mark for the first time in 1964 and $10 billion in 1977, and reached the $100 billion milestone in 1995 and $600 billion in 2018.

Imports spiked 31.5 percent on-year to $615.05 billion in 2021, resulting in a trade surplus of $29.49 billion. It marked the 13th consecutive year that the country's exports exceeded imports, according to the ministry.

The total trade volume also hit a yearly record of $1.26 trillion last year, and South Korea became the eighth-largest trading nation in the world. The country had been the world's ninth for about the previous decade.

This file photo, taken Dec. 21, 2021, shows container ships being loaded with cargo at a port in South Korea's largest port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

For December, monthly exports increased 18.3 percent on-year to reach a monthly high of $60.74 billion.

December also marked the 14th straight month that the country's exports have extended gains. The country has logged double-digit growth in exports since March.

Imports climbed 37.4 percent on-year last month to $61.32 billion, resulting in a monthly trade deficit of $590 million, data showed.

Exports of the country's major items, such as semiconductors and petrochemicals, logged a double-digit growth last year, the ministry said.

Outbound shipments of memory chips, a key export item, rose 29 percent last year from the previous year to reach $127.98 billion.

Semiconductors accounted for about 20 percent of exports by South Korea, home to Samsung Electronics Co., the world's largest memory chip maker, and SK hynix Inc.

Exports of petrochemicals and petroleum products spiked 54.8 percent and 57.9 percent, respectively, last year, as oil prices remained high amid the global economic recovery, according to the industry.

Auto exports also grew 24.2 percent to $46.47 billion last year despite a global shortage of automotive chips. Exports of steel also logged a 37 percent on-year growth, the data showed.

Outbound shipments to nine major regions all grew in 2021, with the yearly exports to China, the United States, the European Union, the ASEAN nations and India reaching a record high.

The shipments to China, South Korea's largest trading partner, rose 22.9 percent on-year to $162.9 billion in 2021, and those to the U.S. jumped 29.4 percent to $95.9 billion.

Exports to Southeast Asian nations surged 33 percent to $108.9 billion, while those to the European Union nations went up 33.9 percent to $63.6 billion, the data showed.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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