© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A truck carrying a shipping container travels past cranes at Pyeongtaek port in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
By Joori Roh
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s exports accelerated in August, towed by solid demand for memory chips, petrochemicals and other major items, with the trade ministry seeing only a limited impact from the coronavirus Delta variant across the region.
Exports rose 34.9% in August from a year earlier, accelerating from 29.6% in July but falling short of 35.7% growth predicted in a Reuters survey.
Imports soared 44.0% from a year earlier, the fastest growth since May 2010 and quicker than a 38.1% rise in July. That brought the trade balance to a $1.67 billion surplus.
Breakdown of Wednesday’s data showed exports of semiconductors, petrochemicals and cars jumped 43.0%, 81.5% and 16.9%, respectively, while those of wireless devices, biohealth products and secondary batteries soared 62.2%, 17.1% and 10.9%, respectively.
By destination, overall exports to China, the United States and European Union rose 26.8%, 38.1% and 41.6%, respectively.
“Despite concerns about production disruptions due to the spread of the recent Delta variant … its impact on exports is seen limited so far,” the ministry said in a statement.
“As the global Delta variant spread and shipping delay remain as risks, however, the ministry will make all-out efforts to sustain the export momentum in the second half of the year.”
South Korea has been setting record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the past weeks, even as tighter curbs were enforced to prevent the spread of the Delta variant during its peak summer holiday season.
A separate survey on Wednesday showed factory activity grew at a slower pace last month, as output contracted for the first time in 12 months and demand eased on surging virus infections and supply chain disruptions.
To support the pandemic-hit economy, the government on Tuesday unveiled a record 604.4 trillion won ($521.21 billion) budget plan for next year.
($1 = 1,159.6100 won)