Thanks to plummeting crude oil prices, South Korea expects to report a record trade surplus this month, said Lee Dong-Geun, a deputy minister at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
The surplus would likely top $4 billion in March, breaking the previous monthly record of $3.85 billion in April 1998.
Lee, citing preliminary data, said he expected imports to fall more than 33% year-on-year in March and exports to drop 22%. "Exports are falling, but prices of crude oil, natural gas and raw materials have nosedived due to the worldwide economic slump," Lee said.
Lee said that while exports might continue to contract by 10%-20% up until September, a modest turnaround might be possible in the fourth quarter.
For the whole of 2009, Lee said he expected the trade balance to reach a surplus of $18-20 billion although exports might not achieve this year's goal of $450 billion.
Asia's fourth largest economy, which imports all its oil needs, reported a trade surplus of $2.93 billion in February, according to revised figures from the Customs Service. This compared to a deficit of $3.35 billion a month earlier.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009