South Korea logged the second- largest exports in its history last month on the back of solid demand from advanced economies, a government report showed Tuesday.
Exports, which account for around half of the economy, expanded 5.2 percent from a year earlier to 49.76 billion U.S. dollars in March, the largest amount except for the record high of 50.48 billion dollars tallied in October last year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
After reducing 0.2 percent in January, the country's export growth accelerated from 1.5 percent in February to 5.2 percent in March.
Imports rose 3.6 percent on year to 45.57 billion dollars in March, sending the trade surplus to 4.19 billion dollars. The trade balance stayed in the black for 26 straight months.
The record export figure came amid strong demand for locally- made products from advanced nations. Exports to the United States, South Korea's major trade partner, jumped 17 percent last month, the first gain in three months, due to demand for smartphones and cars manufactured by South Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor.
Exports to the European Union recorded a double-digit growth for three straight months, and shipments to China, South Korea's No.1 trade partner, increased 4.5 percent in March from a year earlier.
Outbound shipments to Japan increased 1.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the first expansion in 14 months, due to brisk sales of steel and general machinery.
Telecommunication devices, including smartphones, led the export gain by surging 32.1 percent on year in March. The surge was attributable to an expansion of the high-speed wireless network called long-term evolution (LTE) in China.
Ships exports jumped 18.7 percent in March from a year earlier due to demand for high value-added ships such as drill ships and LNG carriers, and chip exports advanced 14 percent amid higher DRAM prices.
Exports of automobiles and steel products increased 15.9 percent and 6.7 percent each last month, but those for LCD panels tumbled 10.4 percent on year in March due to lower flat panel prices.
Oil product exports declined 3.5 percent on year last month amid weak demand from major export destinations, and those for petrochemical products and general machinery slid 5 percent and 0. 1 percent respectively.
Imports of raw materials reduced 3.2 percent in March from a year earlier amid a fall in global commodity prices, but those for capital and consumer goods increased 9.3 percent and 16.3 percent each, indicating a recovery in sentiment among consumers and businesses.
The ministry said the country's exports rebounded despite various negative factors such as the Ukraine crisis, the hike in sales tax in Japan and the reduction of monetary stimulus in the United States.
It forecast that South Korea's exports would maintain upward trend in the second quarter if advanced economies get back on the recovery track as expected.