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S. Korea's trade surplus hits nearly 3-year high in May

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's trade surplus surged to a nearly three-year high in May, as an economic recovery of its two largest exporting partners fueled brisk outbound shipments, the government said Saturday.

South Korea chalked up a trade surplus of US$6.03 billion last month, compared with a surplus of $2.39 billion a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Exports gained 3.2 percent on-year to $48.37 billion, while imports fell 4.8 percent to $42.34 billion over the cited period, the ministry said.

The May trade surplus is the largest logged since October 2010, marking the 16th consecutive month the country's trade balance has stayed in the black.

The sharp on-year growth in trade surplus came as exports performed well on increased demand from the United States and China, the ministry noted.

As the world's two biggest economies showed signs of recovery from the prolonged downturn, exports in IT products saw booming demand. The outbound shipments of mobile and telecom products spiked 62.5 percent on-year in May, followed by a 17.4 percent gain in autos and 6.2 percent in petrochemical goods.

The decline in imports is mainly attributable to a decrease in inbound shipments of natural resources, the government added. Crude oil purchases fell 17.5 percent last month from a year earlier, with a 26 percent drop in coal imports.

Exports of shipbuilding, oil and steel goods remained sluggish on falling unit prices, and those shipped to Japan and the European Union (EU) were weighed down by the yen's weakness, it said.

The outbound shipments in shipbuilding dipped 33.3 percent in May from a year ago and the corresponding figure for steel dropped 13 percent over the same period.

Shipments to the U.S. grew by the most with 21.6 percent, followed by Central America with 17.8 percent and China with 16.6 percent. In contrast, exports to EU slid 14.6 percent, with those to Japan sinking 11.7 percent last month, the ministry said.

On a cumulative basis, South Korea's exports amounted to 230.1 billion won in the first five months of this year, up 1 percent from a year ago. Imports slipped 2.8 percent to 215.9 billion won in the same period, according to the government data.

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