(LEAD) South Korea sees exports rise 20.6% in February, posts first trade surplus in 3 months

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SEOUL, March 01 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s exports jumped 20.6 percent in February from a year earlier, as overseas shipments of chips, autos and other products keys that rose amid the global economic recovery, data showed on Tuesday.

Outbound shipments cleared stood at $53.91 billion last month, up from $44.71 billion a year earlier, according to preliminary data compiled by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy .

It was the highest figure for February since the ministry began compiling related data in 1956. It was also the first time the country’s export volume topped the $50 billion mark in February. The previous record was set in February 2012, when the corresponding figure was $46.3 billion.

Imports jumped 25.1% to $53.07 billion, also the highest for all February, mainly due to soaring global energy prices.

Dubai crude, South Korea’s benchmark, rose to $94.10 a barrel in February on average, up more than 50% from $60.89 a year earlier. South Korea depends on imports for most of its energy needs.

Despite the surge in imports, the country was still able to post a trade surplus of $840 million in February, a reversal from the previous two months of trade deficit.

“The country had faced adverse conditions both at home and abroad in the past month, such as the spread of the omicron variant COVID-19, high commodity prices and tensions around Ukraine. But strong export growth offset rising imports, which led to an improvement in the trade balance,” the ministry said in a statement.

February marked the 16th consecutive month that the country’s exports marked a year-on-year expansion. Exports also posted double-digit growth for the 12th straight month last month.

Shipments of the country’s main export products rose in February, with sales of high-value memory chips up 24% to $10.38 billion and auto sales up 9.1% to 3.84 billions of dollars.

Sales of petrochemical products jumped 24.7% year-on-year to $4.79 billion and those of petroleum products jumped 66.2% to $3.97 billion. The steel industry also saw a 40.1% growth in outbound shipments to $3.31 billion last month.

Sales in the bio-health sector also rose 24.7% amid the continued pandemic across the world, the data showed.

By country, exports to China rose 16% year-on-year to $13 billion last month, and shipments to the United States also rose 20.9% to $7.74 billion. during the cited period, according to the data.

Exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) jumped 45.6% to 1.3 billion in February. Russia accounted for about 73 percent of South Korea’s total exports to the CIS region, but tensions between Russia and Ukraine had only a limited impact on trade, the ministry said.

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