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The account tracking exports and imports of cultural products and contents logged a surplus of US$85.5 million last year, a turnaround from a shortfall of $94 million in 2011, according to data by the Bank of Korea (BOK).
This marks the first time that this account posted a surplus since the central bank began to compile related data in 1980.
In 2012, South Korea earned income worth $1.25 billion by selling cultural products and services while it provided fees or charges worth $1.17 billion for the use of foreign cultural content.
The account of tracking trade of cultural products is part of the service account, which includes outlays by South Koreans on overseas trips.
The improvement in the account mainly resulted from the popularity of Korean popular culture, called "hallyu" in Korean, watchers said.
Hallyu or the Korean wave refers to the popularity of TV shows and music that has secured hordes of fans in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Last year, South Korea's service account posted a surplus of $2.68 billion, the first surplus since 1998. Korea had suffered from chronic shortfalls of the service account due mainly to its spending on overseas trips.