Korea Trade Balance December 2020


Korea: Merchandise exports rise at a quicker pace in December

January 1, 2021

Merchandise exports shot up 12.6% over the same month last year in December amid solid IT demand, following November’s 4.1% increase. December’s outturn marked the sturdiest expansion since October 2018. Meanwhile, merchandise imports increased 1.8% on an annual basis in December (November: -1.9% yoy), marking the best result since April 2019.

Consequently, the merchandise trade balance improved from the previous month, recording a USD 6.9 billion surplus in December (November 2020: USD 5.9 billion surplus; December 2019: USD 2.0 billion surplus). Lastly, the trend pointed up, with the 12-month trailing merchandise trade balance recording a USD 46.1 billion surplus in December, compared to the USD 41.2 billion surplus in November.

December’s result means exports fell 5.4% annually in 2020 as whole (2019: -10.4% yoy), and imports contracted 7.2% (2019: -6.0% yoy), leading to a trade surplus worth USD 45.6 billion (2019: USD 38.9 billion)

On the print, economists at Credit Suisse commented: “Newer industries including electric vehicles and bio -health products are emerging as the new growth engines for Korea’s exports, with respective growth rates of 36.8%yoy and 72.6%yoy in H22020. These products currently make up around 3.6% of total exports, up from 1.6% in 2018.” As to the outlook, they were optimistic: “Exports will likely be boosted by a multilateral approach during the Biden presidency, which could help reduce uncertainties around supply chains in the region.”

Our panelists see merchandise exports expanding 11.1% and imports rising 7.7% in 2021, bringing the trade surplus to USD 67.1 billion. In 2022, exports are expected to increase 6.8% and imports to rise 6.7%, resulting in a trade surplus of USD 72.4 billion.

Author:, Junior Economist

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Korea Trade Balance Chart

Korea Trade12m December 20 20 0

Note: 12-month sum of trade balance in USD billion and annual average variation of the 12-month sum of exports and imports.
Source: Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and FocusEconomics calculations.

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