Exports Faltering on Falling Chip Sales

Korea's exports in the first ten days of March decreased nearly 20 percent from a year earlier, fueling concerns that the nation's economic downturn is deepening amid a global slowdown.

According to data from Korea Customs Service (KCS), the country's export between March 1 and 10 stood at $10.95 billion (12.4 trillion won), a 19.1 percent drop from a year earlier.

The drop came after exports decreased by 12.6 percent in February and 5.9 percent in January, respectively.

On a monthly basis, the nation's exports started contracting in December, with the external shipments standing at $48.27 billion, down 1.7 percent from a year ago.

In March, a sharp fall in exports was driven by falling sales in petrochemicals and chips, which suffered the steepest decline at a rate of 39 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively.

Sales of vessels and ships also dropped 9.7 percent, while telecommunication equipment dropped 4.1 percent.

Experts voiced concerns that exports are likely to remain sluggish as the semiconductor industry, which underpinned the nation's economic growth in 2018, is on course toward further downturn.

"The Korean economy has largely been bolstered by brisk chip sales," said Lee Chae-woong, a professor emeritus of economics at Sungkyunkwan University.

Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, the top semiconductor manufacturers continued to post record earnings on the back of robust global demand, but such a performance is highly unlikely in the coming months as global demand is softening.

In a monthly report, Korea Development Institute (KDI) also expects the current...

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