World Economy

S. Korea 2014 Exports at $573b, Imports 525b

S. Korea 2014 Exports at $573b, Imports 525bS. Korea 2014 Exports at $573b, Imports 525b

South Korea enjoyed record exports last year, data showed Thursday, despite slow economic growth in key market China and a sluggish recovery in Europe.

For the whole of 2014, overseas shipments grew 2.4 percent to $573.1 billion and imports rose 2.0 percent to $525.70 billion, AFP quoted the trade ministry as saying.

As a result, South Korea’s trade surplus widened to a record high of $47.41 billion, it said. The trade balance has been in the black since February 2012.

In December alone, exports rose 3.7 percent year on year to $49.74 billion, while imports fell 0.9 percent to $43.96 billion. Trade surplus widened to $5.78 billion in December from the previous month’s $5.51 billion.

The trade ministry attributed the 2014 increase in exports partly to South Korea’s free-trade agreements, including with the United States.

Last year exports to the United States increased 13.4 percent, while those to China fell 0.9 percent, it said.

The ministry predicted South Korea’s overall exports are expected to rise 3.7 percent to $594 billion this year.

  Weakest Growth

Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. are forecasting their weakest growth in yearly car sales in more than a decade as competition intensifies and the global economy slows. Hyundai, the world’s fifth largest automaker, said Friday the two carmakers aim to sell a combined 8.2 million vehicles this year.

That would be an increase of just 2.5 percent from last year’s sales about of about 8 million vehicles. Sales grew 4 percent in each of the past two years.

Sales of Hyundai and Kia cars grew at double digit rates until 2011 as the group weathered the 2008 financial crisis by introducing new designs and marketing. The Korean group was also aided by a weak local currency. In 2010, car sales at Hyundai and Kia jumped 24 percent combined as exports surged.