South Korea's exports remain strong in January

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's exports got off to a good start in January as signs of economic recovery in the EU and South-east Asia offset the risks from a weak yen, the trade ministry said on Saturday.

Exports for the month averaged US$2.07 billion (S$2.64 billion) a day, up 8.9 per cent from a year earlier.

For the whole of January, however, exports came to US$45.584 billion, down 0.2 per cent from 2013 as there were two less working days in the month compared with the previous year due to the Lunar New Year holiday that began Thursday.

"On the back of an economic recovery trend, exports to the EU went up sharply while shipments to Asean and China were also on the increase, led by IT products," the ministry said in a press statement.

Exports to the EU surged 24.7 per cent on-year in January, to the Asean bloc 9.9 per cent and China 0.8 per cent.

Imports in January came to US$44.849 billion, down 0.9 per cent on-year, mainly due to smaller crude oil imports, leaving a US$735 million trade surplus, up from US$400 million a year earlier.

"Since the second half of last year, an upward trend in exports has been continuing," it said.

"Exports for the whole 2014 are likely to turn out to be strong thanks to the trend for an economic recovery in the Unites States and Europe".

"The emerging market crisis stemming from a stimulus tapering in the United States is a downside risk for (South Korean) exports but its impact would remain limited as it accounts for only a small portion of the country's exports," it added.