South Korea's exports, which account for around half of the economy, topped 50 billion U.S. dollars for the second time in the country's history in April, reflecting a global recovery, a government report showed Thursday.
Exports increased 9 percent from a year earlier to 50.31 billion dollars in April after growing 5.1 percent the prior month, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The export growth pace continued to get faster after a 1.4 percent increase in February and a 0.2 percent fall in January.
It was the second time that the country's exports breached the meaningful level of 50 billion dollars in a month, and was the largest monthly export except for 50.48 billion dollars tallied in October 2013.
Trade surplus was 4.46 billion dollars in April, logging the 27th consecutive month of trade surplus. For the first four months of this year, trade surplus amounted to 10.31 billion dollars.
The near-record April exports were in line with the global economic recovery. The ministry said strong demand from the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) contributed to the solid export.
Outbound shipments to the United States jumped 19.3 percent in April from a year earlier, keeping a double-digit growth for two months in a row. Demand was strong for locally-made consumer goods such as automobiles and consumer electronics.
Shipments to the ASEAN member nations expanded 17 percent on year in April after rising 13 percent in March and 15.3 percent in February. Demand for capital goods remained robust among the ASEAN countries.
Exports to Japan, a major rival of South Korea companies in the tech and auto sectors, increased 12.2 percent last month after rising 1 percent the prior month. It was the second straight month of growth in export to Japan.
Shipments to the European Union reduced 3.2 percent in April from a year earlier on the back of weak demand for ships. In contrast to the global trend, Europe's shipping industry stayed lackluster.
Exports to China, South Korea's largest trade partner, gained 2. 4 percent in April from a year earlier, but the growth was slower than in March when the exports increased 4.4 percent.
Most export items improved performance last month. Chip exports increased 12.3 percent on year in April due to higher DRAM prices and expanded exports of system chips. Shipments of telecommunication devices surged 14.4 percent last month, maintaining its solid trend amid launches of new models such as Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S5 smartphone. Samsung launched its latest smartphone Galaxy S5 in 125 countries worldwide in early April.
Auto exports jumped 18.9 percent in April from a year earlier as top automaker Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors saw their new models such as Genesis and Soul sold strongly in overseas markets. Ship exports soared 22.7 percent on demand for high value-added ships such as drill ships.
Exports of oil and steel products, whose sales were lackluster a year earlier, jumped 17.2 percent and 16.8 percent respectively in April from a year earlier, but liquid crystal display (LCD) exports decreased 8.6 percent on year. Exports of petrochemicals and general machinery rose 3.5 percent and 0.6 percent each last month.
Imports gained 5 percent from a year earlier to 45.85 billion dollars in April, as domestic demand for oil and steel products became strong amid solid exports.
Oil imports increased 4.4 percent on year in April amid higher global oil prices, and inbound shipments of steel expanded 6.5 percent. Natural gas imports rose 1.8 percent, but those of coal and petroleum products declined 2.7 percent and 7.1 percent respectively.