South Korea's exports moved up 4 percent on-year in February, with its growth slowing mainly due to fewer working days caused by the Lunar New Year holiday, government data showed Thursday.
Outbound shipments reached US$44.88 billion in the one-month period, up from $43.16 billion a year ago, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Exports rose for the 16th consecutive month, but numbers were affected by the four-day holiday in South Korea as well as people taking days off to celebrate the Lunar New Year in China. China is South Korea's largest export destination. Imports rose 14.8 percent on-year to $41.57 billion last month.
South Korea's trade surplus came to $3.31 billion, marking 73 straight months in which the country's exports have exceeded imports, the ministry said.
"Despite fewer working days and high base effect, South Korea's exports increased in February to maintain the upward trend," the ministry said in a release. "Strong demand for memory chips and increased sales prices of petroleum products were among the main contributors to the export growth."
Shipments of semiconductors soared 40.8 percent on-year to $9 billion, a monthly record, on brisk sales of high-value memory chips and storage devices. Petroleum products rose a solid 15.8 percent as a rally in oil prices boosted their sales prices.
In contrast, sales of automobiles dropped 14.4 percent on sluggish performance in the United States, and steel fell 9.7 percent due to weak demand in China.
By nation, exports to China climbed 3.7 percent on-year to $11.53 billion last month, rising for 16 consecutive months.
Shipments to the United States backtracked 10.7 percent due to downbeat sales of autos and wireless communication equipment. South Korea's trade surplus with the U.S. tumbled 76.9 percent on-year to $360 million in February, the ministry noted.
The ministry said the global economic recovery and high sales prices of major export items would create a favorable environment for Korean exporters, but cautioned over rising protectionism in major economies and the potential impact of U.S. interest rate hikes this year.
"The strengthening Korean won and rising overseas production of major export items are also downside risks for exports," the ministry said.
The Seoul government pledged to drum up support for local companies to tackle trade barriers and expand their foothold in the global market.
"We will come up with proactive measures to deal with the downside risks to keep up with the upward trend in exports," Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, said in the release.(Yonhap News)