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South Korea's trade surplus slightly widened last month as its overall trade volume grew from a year earlier, the government said Thursday.
In July, the country's exports amounted to US$45.84 billion, up 2.6 percent from the same month last year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The July figure marks a turnaround from a 0.9 percent on-year drop in the previous month.
The country's trade surplus came to $2.71 billion with its imports growing 2.7 percent on-year to $43.13 billion. July marked the 18th consecutive month the country posted a trade surplus.
The ministry attributed the growth in exports to a large increase in shipments to China and the European Union (EU).
"Especially, exports to EU countries posted a large growth for the second straight month," it said in a press release.
In July, the country's exports to China jumped 14.5 percent on-year with shipments to the United States and EU countries growing 8.5 percent and 8.2 percent on-year, respectively.
Shipments to Japan, on the other hand, plunged 14.8 percent on-year, apparently due to the effects of the weakening Japanese currency, the ministry said.
The yen's depreciation against the U.S. dollar is also apparently eating into the global price competitiveness of South Korean products, it added, noting the country's exports to the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also dropped 5.4 percent on-year in July.
The country's exports to ASEAN countries had surged 10 percent on-year in the first six months of the year.
By product, shipments of mobile communication devices, such as smartphones, spiked 27.3 percent on-year to $2.09 billion in July with those of semiconductors also jumping 21.8 percent to $4.8 billion.
Shipments of steel products, on the other hand, plunged 19.4 percent to $2.56 billion with exports of petroleum products, such as gasoline, dropping 7.6 percent to $4.03 billion, according to the ministry.
"Exports by the steel and machinery industries were rather poor due to a drop in prices and the Japanese yen's depreciation, but the country's shipments of IT products, such as mobile communication devices and semiconductors, continued to grow with shipments of petrochemical products also contributing to the increase of the country's overall exports," it said.
Imports grew mostly on an increase in oil imports while the average price of crude oil also rose by $1.3 per barrel from a year earlier to $105.8, the ministry said.
Source: Yonhap News (Aug. 1, 2013)