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Consumer electronics and smartphones fell by almost 20 percent

July 02,2018

Korea’s exports, the driver of the country’s economy, are facing trouble, as they decreased by 0.089 percent last month from June 2017, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Sunday.

The ministry cited a decrease in working days by 1.5 days in June as the reason for the decline in a report on export trends for the first half. Also, June last year saw a huge shipbuilding export deal worth $7.37 billion go through.

Korea’s exports posted year-on-year growth for 17 straight months through March but a negative 1.5 percent in April. Figures in May increased by 13.2 percent on year but fell again in June.

For the January-June 20 period, export volume rose 6.6 percent over 2017. But that falls far short of the 15.7 percent year-on-year growth seen in the first six months of last year.

Korea’s exports were hit hard during the first half by external factors, such as protectionist moves from the United States and China, the ministry said.

Exports of consumer electronics tumbled 18.2 percent year-on-year, and mobile communications devices, including smartphones, fell by 17.8 percent over the same period. Displays and automobiles each declined 15.7 percent and 5.6 percent. Shipbuilding exports plunged by a sharp 55 percent.

“Exports of completed products and components made in Korea were slashed in the wake of intensified trade protectionism as local producers found local suppliers,” said the ministry in the report. “Despite growing demand for TVs due to large international sports events, such as the Olympics and World Cup, exports were sluggish, as key products were manufactured overseas.”

Semiconductors led export growth. Chip exports shot up 42.9 percent on-year, trailed by computers at 38.6 percent and petrochemical products at 33.67 percent.

“Shipments of semiconductors have been sustained by strong demand for memory chips for servers, as well as those needed for the Internet of Things and autonomous vehicles,” the ministry said.

But the semiconductor boom may be ending soon, as growth is expected to decline in the latter half of the year, according to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade. The state-run think tank said a week ago that Korean semiconductor exports are forecast to grow by 15.9 percent in the second half, down from the projected 42.5 percent in the first half.

The Korean government also isn’t optimistic about future export prospects in general. The institute predicted that exports will post 6 percent growth in 2018, down from the 15.6 percent year-on-year growth seen in 2017.

Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong told other government officials in a meeting on exports and investment last month that exports maintained their upward momentum thanks to various internal and external circumstances, but the impacts of those factors may “slow down gradually.”

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]