Year-on-year, imports increased 11.4 percent to USD 46.78 billion, after an upwardly revised 28.1 percent jump in a month earlier while markets had expected a 12 percent rise.
Exports rose at a softer 4.5 percent to USD 51.92 billion, following a 22.7 percent surge in October and below consensus of a 6.6 percent gain. It marked the second straight month of increase in outbound shipments, amid ongoing trade dispute between China and the US. Exports of semiconductors jumped 11.6, led by solid sales of high-value chips and storage devices. Also, sales of petrochemical products advanced 23.5 percent, supported by solid demand. In contrast, sales of vehicles dropped 2 percent, amid weak demand in the Middle East and tougher environmental regulations in Europe. Exports of displays fell 10 percent, due to a drop in prices of liquid crystal displays and weakening demand for flat-screen TVs.
Among major trading partners, sales to the US went up 7.9 percent, mainly driven by vehicles, general machinery and semiconductors. In addition, sales to the ASEAN countries grew 13 percent, led by strong demand for semiconductor, petroleum goods and displays. In contrast, exports to China, South Korea's top trading partner, shrank 2.5 percent and reaching the first drop in over two years, amid sluggish sales of wireless communication equipment and displays, coupled with a high base effect.
Considering the first eleven months of 2018, the trade surplus narrowed sharply to USD 66.31 billion from USD 89.71 billion in the corresponding period the prior year.