SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea logged a net outflow of gold not held as foreign reserve assets for the fifth straight year in 2012 amid the global economic slowdown, central bank data showed Tuesday.
The balance of trade in non-monetary gold was valued at a surplus of US$1.59 billion last year, up from $1.5 billion a year earlier, according to data by the Bank of Korea (BOK).
Non-monetary gold covers exports and imports of all gold that is not held as foreign reserve assets, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The 2012 data marked the fifth consecutive year of a surplus run since 2008 when a net outflow of such gold reached $31.6 million.
The trade of non-monetary gold is part of the goods balance. Exports of such gold accounted for 0.55 percent out of Korea's total overseas shipments of goods in 2012, the BOK said.
Market watchers said that the surplus mainly came as investors' appetite for gold increased amid the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn. The surplus indicated that Korea shipped gold products overseas after reprocessing imported gold, they said.
Except for 1998 and 2006, the trade of non-monetary gold had remained in the red ever year until 2007, data showed.
Korea logged a surplus of such trade worth a record $2.38 billion in 1998 when South Korea was in the midst of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Then, Koreans queued up to sell their gold rings kept in storage in a nationwide campaign to help bail out their country, which was reeling from a severe shortage of foreign reserves.
In contrast of a net outflow of non-monetary gold, the BOK has raised its gold holdings to diversify its FX reserves since 2010, which stood at $327.4 billion as of the end of February
The central bank bought 20 tons of gold last month, raising its gold holdings to 104.4 tons valued at $4.79 billion.
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