Year-on-year, exports declined by 5.8 percent year-on-year to USD 46.35 billion in January, following a 1.3 percent fall in a month earlier while markets had expected a 7 percent drop. It marked the second straight month of decrease in outbound shipments and the steepest since September 2018, amid ongoing trade conflict between China and the US and lower prices of oil and semiconductors. Sales of memory chips tumbled 23.3 percent, as global tech firms postponed purchases for inventory control purposes. Also, exports dropped for petrochemicals (-5.3 percent) and petroleum products (-4.8 pct), amid a decline in crude oil prices. Conversely, exports advanced for secondary batteries (14.5 percent), automobile (13.4 percent), steel products (3.3 percent), and machinery products (1.7 percent).
Exports to China, South Korea's top trading partner, contracted 19.1 percent and marking the third straight month of fall, amid lower sales of memory chips and petrochemical products. In contrast, outbound shipments grew to the US (20.4 percent), the EU countries (11.9 percent) and the ASEAN countries (6.4 percent).
Imports fell 1.7 percent to USD 45.02 billion, reversing from a 1.2 percent rise in the previous month but far less than market consensus of a 5.3 percent drop.