S.Korea exports expand 25.8% y/y in 2021, sharpest in 11 years

FILE PHOTO: A truck drives between shipping containers at a container terminal at Incheon port in Incheon, South Korea, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

January 1, 2022

By Joori Roh

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s exports in 2021 expanded at their fastest pace in 11 years, with the total exports value reaching a record figure supported by post-pandemic recoveries in global demand for the nation’s key exporting items.

For the whole of 2021, South Korea’s exports grew 25.8% from a year earlier to a record $644.54 billion, trade ministry data showed on Saturday, logging the fastest growth since 2010.

That also marked the first growth in three years after contracting 5.5% and 10.4% in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

A breakdown by items showed exports of semiconductors jumped 29% year-on-year to a record $128 billion, while those of petrochemicals also surged 54.8% to a record $55.1 billion. Other items such as cars and steels also jumped 24.2% and 37%, respectively.

By destination, exports to China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner, gained 22.9%, and those to the United States and European Union jumped 29.4% and 33.9%.

Meanwhile, imports for the full year jumped 31.5% to a record $615.1 billion, rebounding from a 7.1% contraction in 2020.

Saturday’s data also showed exports in the final month of the year expanded 18.3% year-on-year, extending the monthly growth into a 14th straight month, though the rate was slower than 32% growth in November. A Reuters’ poll of 13 economists had expected 22% growth.

Total exports stood at $60.74 billion in December, the largest monthly figure of all time.

A 35.1% jump in semiconductors exports towed the December growth, while overall exports to China and the United States also soared 20.8% and 22.9%, respectively.

(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Chris Reese)

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