Exports from South Korea plunged 11 percent from a year earlier to USD 46.1 billion in July, the eighth consecutive month of declines and largely in line with market forecasts of 11.3 percent drop. The year-long China-US trade war and recent Japan's export restrictions hurt foreign demand, alongside a slowdown in the semiconductor sector and falling chip prices, and the petrochemical and petroleum product industries that are under pressure due to the stagnant recovery of oil prices.
Semiconductors exports, which make up about a fifth of the country's total exports, tumbled 28.1 percent; while petrochemicals sales moved down 12.4 percent due to falling oil prices and delayed purchases. The value of petroleum products shipped overseas slumped 10.5 percent on decreasing oil prices, fiercer competition, and the introduction of more refineries in Asia.
On the contrary, exports of automobiles advanced 21.6 percent boosted by increasing global demand for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and eco-friendly vehicles. Outbound shipments of auto parts moved up 1.9 percent, after six months of contraction. The introduction of new models in the US, the EU, and Central and South America led to an expansion in parts exports. Sales of home appliances also climbed 2.2 percent on the back of robust sales of clothes dryers and air purifiers.
Among major trade partners, exports to China fell 16.3 percent amid lower demand for semiconductors, petrochemicals, general machinery, and displays; while sales to the US inched down 0.7 percent due to lower shipments of general machinery, wireless communications devices, semiconductors, and computers. Meanwhile, shipments to the EU edged up 0.3 percent on the back of automobiles, general machinery, and ships sales. The value of Korean goods shipped to ASEAN were up 0.5 percent and those to the CIS jumped 14.5 percent.
Meanwhile, imports declined 2.7 percent to USD 43.7 billion in July.
Considering January to July, the trade surplus shrank to USD 21.64 billion from USD 37.99 billion in the same period of 2018.