SEOUL, April 1 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's export turned downward last month as the COVID-19 outbreak across the world weakened global demand and caused supply disruption, a government report showed Wednesday.
Export, which takes up about half of the export-driven economy, fell 0.2 percent from a year earlier to 46.91 billion U.S. dollars in March, after growing 4.3 percent in the previous month, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Import slipped 0.3 percent to 41.87 billion dollars, sending the trade surplus to 5.04 billion dollars. The trade balance stayed in black for 98 straight months.
The outbound shipment made the first rebound in 15 months in February, but it turned downward in March on the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak across the world.
The ministry said the COVID-19 outbreak had a limited effect last month despite pessimistic expectations that the virus spread may sharply reduce the country's export.
It noted that expectations for the April export are not optimistic given the COVID-19 spread across Europe and the United States.
The daily average export declined 6.4 percent in March, after sliding 11.9 percent in February.
In terms of volume, the shipment advanced 13.1 percent in March from a year earlier, continuing to expand for two straight months. It was the fastest increase in 17 months.
The export price retreated 11.7 percent last month, contributing to the overall export fall.
Car export turned upward in three months on demand for environmentally-friendly vehicles in Europe and for sport utility vehicles (SUV) in North America, while auto parts shipment kept rising for two straight months.
Shipment of telecommunication devices, such as smartphones, rose in double figures on demand for newly launched mobile phones, and computer export surged over 80 percent as people were ordered to work at home for the virus spread.
Exports for semiconductors and general machinery fell in single digits amid the weakened global demand, and ship export turned downward in three months.
Shipment for petrochemicals and oil products declined on a sharp fall in global crude oil, and display panel export diminished in double digits on a global supply glut and lower product price.
Steel export kept skidding for the third consecutive month on lower product price, and those for steel and consumer electronics reduced last month.
Export to the United States continued to grow for two straight months, and shipment to the European Union (EU) rebounded in six months as the COVID-19 outbreak had a limited impact yet.
Shipment to Japan turned around in eight months on demand for oil products, chips and general machinery, while export to the Middle East kept growing for two months in a row.
Export to China, South Korea's biggest trading partner, shrank 5.8 percent on soft demand for petrochemicals, steel, oil products and display panels.
Shipment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India slipped in single figures in March from a year earlier.
Export to Latin American countries tumbled 25.8 percent on weaker demand for display panels, cars and consumer electronics.