SEOUL :South Korea's exports expanded at their fastest pace in 11 years in 2021, with the total export value reaching a record high, supported by post-pandemic recoveries in global demand.
For the full year, exports rose 25.8per cent from a year earlier to US$644.54 billion, trade ministry data showed on Saturday, the fastest pace since 2010.
That also marked the first growth in three years after contractions of 5.5per cent and 10.4per cent in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
"Now is the time to head towards the US$700 billion export-era ... The trade ministry will step up policy efforts so that industries and exports can tow the complete (economic) normalisation this year," Minister Moon Sung-wook said.
A breakdown by items showed exports of semiconductors jumped 29per cent year-on-year to a record US$128 billion, while those of petrochemicals also surged 54.8per cent to a record US$55.1 billion. Other items such as cars and steel jumped 24.2per cent and 37per cent, respectively.
By destination, exports to China, South Korea's biggest trading partner, rose 22.9per cent, and those to the United States and the European Union jumped 29.4per cent and 33.9per cent.
Meanwhile, imports for the full year jumped 31.5per cent to a record US$615.1 billion, rebounding from a 7.1per cent contraction in 2020.
Moon also said the ministry is reviewing joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and aims for more trade pacts to expand its export markets.
Saturday's data also showed exports in the final month of the year expanded 18.3per cent year-on-year, extending growth into a 14th straight month, though the rate was slower than 32per cent in November. A Reuters' poll of 13 economists had expected 22per cent growth.
Total exports stood at US$60.74 billion in December, the largest ever monthly figure.
A 35.1per cent jump in semiconductors exports led December growth, while overall exports to China and the United States also soared 20.8per cent and 22.9per cent, respectively.
(Reporting by Joori RohEditing by Chris Reese and Kim Coghill)