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South Korea's Exports Rebound in October, Lifting Trade Surplus

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash

Seoul, South Korea - South Korea's exports rose 5.1% year-on-year to $55.9 billion in October, marking the first annual increase in 13 months, according to data released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). 

Strong export growth helped push the country's trade surplus to a 20-month high of $16.4 billion.

Why It Matters: 

South Korea's exports rebounded in October after more than a year of declines, pushing the trade surplus to a 20-month high. 

The data signals that the trade-dependent economy may turn a corner after struggling with slowing global demand.

The Key Points

  • Exports rose 5.1% to $55.9 billion in October from a year earlier, ending 13 straight months of declines.
  • The trade surplus reached $16.4 billion, the highest since February 2022, as imports fell 9.7%.
  • Analysts attributed the export growth to rebounding shipments of semiconductors and petrochemicals.
  • Shipments to China topped $10 billion for the third month, while exports to the U.S. jumped to a record $10.1 billion.

What they're saying:

The administration credited its pro-export policies and trade diplomacy for rebounding despite risks such as high-interest rates and geopolitics.

Analysts say the data suggests exports may have bottomed out, but maintaining momentum will depend on global conditions.

What is Next?

Export gains could boost GDP after two-quarters of contraction. The government wants to keep the recovery going with measures such as easing financing and marketing hurdles.

Further data will determine whether October marked a turning point or a temporary anomaly amid ongoing economic uncertainty.

Risks that could weigh on exports include global recession concerns, China's COVID-19 curbs, and tensions over Taiwan.

Key Export Figures:

  • Semiconductor exports fell just 3.1% in October, the smallest decline since August 2022.
  • Ships, autos, and oil exports posted robust double-digit growth last month.
  • Exports to the top market in China totaled $11 billion in October.
  • U.S. exports hit a record $10.1 billion, driven by demand for electric vehicles.

Trade Balance: Imports fell 9.7% on lower energy purchases. October's surplus of $16.4 billion was the highest since February 2022.

Quarterly Exports:

  • Q4 2022: $530 billion
  • Q1 2023: $504 billion
  • Q2 2023: $519 billion
  • Q3 2023: $524 billion
  • October 2023: $551 billion