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SEJONG, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports rose to the second-highest mark on record last month on growing shipments to the United States and other advanced countries, the government said Tuesday.
Outbound shipments reached US$49.76 billion in March, up 5.2 percent from the same month last year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The highest monthly figure for exports is $50.48 billion posted in October 2013.
The country's trade surplus came to $4.19 billion as imports gained 3.6 percent on-year to $45.57 billion. Last month's trade surplus marks a rise from a surplus of $3.33 billion in the same month last year.
The ministry attributed part of the export increase to growing demands in advanced nations.
"The growth of the country's exports gained further speed on increasing shipments to advanced countries despite a number of negative outside factors, such as concerns over China's slowing economic growth," the ministry said in a press release.
In March, the country's shipments to the United States jumped 17 percent on-year with exports to member states of the European Union also surging 15.2 percent.
Shipments to China, the world's largest importer of South Korean products, gained 5.4 percent on-year.
By product, exports of mobile communication devices, such as cellular phones, spiked 32.1 percent on-year to $2.7 billion, with shipments of automobiles and semiconductors surging 15.9 percent and 14 percent on-year to $4.68 billion and $5.24 billion, respectively.
Shipments of petroleum and petrochemical products, on the other hand, shrank 3.5 percent and 5 percent on-year to $4.69 billion and $3.97 billion.
Imports grew as the country's purchase of consumer goods surged 16.3 percent on-year while its imports of raw materials dropped 3.2 percent, the ministry said.
Energy imports gained 0.3 percent on-year to some $15.8 billion as its imports of coal plunged 14.6 percent to $974 million, while its purchase of crude oil only inched up 0.4 percent to about $8.22 billion.
The country's overall exports in the January-March period grew 2.2 percent, compared with a 0.2 percent on-year gain posted in the same period last year.
The ministry said the country's exports will likely continue to grow in the second quarter.
"We expect to see more financial instabilities in newly emerging countries, prompted by the United States' tapering of its quantitative easing and the conflict in Ukraine, but believe the country's exports will show steady growth in the second quarter on the back of economic recovery in advanced countries," Kwon Pyung-oh, head of the ministry's investment and trade bureau, told a press briefing.
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