SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's export kept falling for the fourth successive month in January due to weak demand for locally-made products amid growing worry about the global economic downturn, government data showed Wednesday.
The outbound shipment dropped 16.6 percent from a year earlier to 46.27 billion U.S. dollars in January, continuing to slide since October last year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Import shrank 2.6 percent to 58.96 billion dollars last month, sending the trade deficit to 12.69 billion dollars.
The deficit marked the highest since relevant data began to be compiled in 1956, topping 10 billion dollars for the first time. The trade balance stayed in red for the 11th consecutive month.
Semiconductor export tumbled 44.5 percent over the year to 6.0 billion dollars in January on the back of price falls for memory chips and weaker chip demand.
Chip shipment kept a downward trend for the fifth straight month, leading to an overall export reduction.
Display panel shipment declined 36.0 percent to 1.27 billion dollars, but mobile phone export advanced 17.9 percent to 1.59 billion dollars, rebounding in 10 months on higher demand for new smartphones.
Export for home appliances dipped 19.9 percent to 590 million dollars as rapid interest rate hikes in major economies weakened demand in the United States and Europe.
Automotive export gained 21.9 percent to 4.98 billion dollars on higher demand for eco-friendly vehicles and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), but auto parts shipment dwindled 16.2 percent to 1.73 billion dollars.
Secondary battery export expanded 9.9 percent to 800 million dollars on demand for batteries used to make electric vehicles.
Oil products shipment increased 12.2 percent to 4.13 billion dollars, but petrochemicals export dropped 25.0 percent to 3.79 billion dollars.
Steel export retreated 25.9 percent to 2.71 billion dollars due to weaker demand from the United States and Europe, and general machinery shipment diminished 15.8 percent to 3.86 billion dollars last month.
Export to the United States shrank 6.1 percent to 8.05 billion dollars, but shipment to the European Union (EU) rose 0.2 percent to 5.43 billion dollars on strong demand for locally-made cars.
Shipment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) slipped 19.8 percent to 8.26 billion dollars on the back of continued inflation and global economic slowdown.
Those to Japan and Latin American countries fell in double digits to 2.29 billion dollars and 1.71 billion dollars each.
Meanwhile, the country's imports continued to decline for the second consecutive month on lower demand for raw and subsidiary materials.
Crude oil import sank 10.0 percent over the year to 6.94 billion dollars in January on stable oil prices, but those for natural gas and coal grew to 6.77 billion dollars and 2.08 billion dollars respectively.