Nation should maintain positive momentum for growth rebound
Korea registered monthly exports of $51.19 billion in April, hitting records in various areas. Above all, the country saw an export growth rate of 41.1 percent last month, the highest year-on-year rise since January 2011. Additionally, it was the best April performance ever, while topping $50 billion for the second consecutive month. The jump was, of course, due in part to the weak performance a year ago due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it went far beyond this. By all appearances, the April data show the nation's exports have recovered from the coronavirus shock and entered a new boom.
Exporters' performance deserves praise ― they showed balanced growth, recording shipment expansions in all 15 flagship products. The exports of intermediate goods, such as general machinery, petrochemicals and textiles, which had long remained weak, rebounded. Semiconductors and automobiles, the two items topping Korea's export list, also had record-breaking performances. Computer chip exports have grown for 10 straight months, with shipments in the first four months of this year marking the second-highest levels since 2018. Petrochemical exports jumped by the sharpest margin in 25 years and 11 months.
Rising consumer demand for cars and home appliances during the pandemic, and the rebound in the unit export price, thanks to the oil price recovery, contributed significantly to the revival of outbound shipments. Some emerging items designated by the government as new growth engines, including system semiconductors, bio-health products, electric vehicles and rechargeable batteries also maintained their expansive pace from eight to 20 months in a row. Most important of all, exporters are rapidly overcoming the crisis caused by the pandemic. The recovery is far faster and sharper than the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Now is the time for the public and private sectors to strengthen cooperation to turn this hard-won growth momentum into a long-term trend. Economic policymakers and corporate executives must join forces to get over possible bottlenecks in global logistics, parts supply hiccups, and supply network risks. Only then can Korea restore its status as a $1 trillion trader and sustain its economic recovery through exports.