South Korea's exports moved up 10 percent in the first 20 days of March from a year earlier despite the new coronavirus pandemic, customs data showed Monday, led mostly by improved shipments of chips and automobiles, along with increased working days.
The country's outbound shipments came to $30.7 billion in the March 1-20 period, rising from $27.9 billion in the same period a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.
The daily average for the period, however, slipped 0.4 percent on-year. The customs office noted the number of working days over the cited period came to 16 this year, compared with 14.5 last year.
The data came amid growing concerns that COVID-19 outbreak is denting exports by Asia's fourth-largest economy.
The latest figure compares to the first 10 days of the month, when the country's exports expanded 20 percent, indicating exports have faced greater economic fallout from the pandemic more recently.
The new coronavirus has disrupted trade and halted production around the globe, with a rising number of countries fully shutting down their borders.
By segment, exports of chips advanced 20.3 percent and those of automobiles increased 13.7 percent over the period from a year earlier.
Outbound shipments of ships, on the other hand, nosedived 49.6 percent.
By country, shipments to China gained 4.9 percent on-year, while shipments to the United States spiked 27.2 percent.
Outbound shipments to other major economies improved as well, with exports to the European Union moving up 13.5 percent and those to Vietnam advancing 12.1 percent.
South Korea's exports had dropped for 14 consecutive months until January, largely due to a prolonged trade dispute between the United States and China and a slump in global chip prices. Exports managed to rebound 4.5 percent in February from a year earlier.
The trade ministry suggested in January its annual exports are set to rebound 3 percent in 2020 on the back of the recovery of chips, compared to last year's 10 percent drop.
The sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 infections around the globe over February and March, however, has made the goal much less feasible.
South Korea's finance ministry said last week its economy may contract in the first quarter of the year on weaker exports and private spending.
The South Korean economy grew 2 percent last year, the lowest in a decade, and had been expected to rebound to 2.3 percent growth this year.
The Bank of Korea, however, trimmed its outlook for the economy in 2020 to 2.1 percent from the previous 2.3 percent prediction, with a further cut in its growth estimate likely in the coming months. (Yonhap)