South Korean exports increased 4.5% year-on-year in February, its first increase in 14 months, thanks mainly to the recovery of the semiconductor sector, the government reported on Sunday.
Shipments from the Asian country amounted to 41,200 million dollars (37,360 million euros), while imports grew 1.4% to 37,100 million dollars (33,642 million euros), according to data published by the South Korean Ministry of Commerce , Industry and Energy.
The authorities attributed the rebound in exports to the recovery of chip shipments for the first time in 15 months, which increased 9.4% year-on-year in February.
The recovery was driven by the growing demand in data centers and the rise in memory chip prices.
South Korea's trade surplus in the second month of 2020 stood at 4,100 million dollars (3,717 million euros), 23.8% more than in February of the previous year.
Despite the good data, the ministry warned that the new coronavirus epidemic, dubbed SARS-CoV-2, is a new source of uncertainty for national exports.
South Korean shipments to China, its main trading partner and the outbreak of the virus, fell 6.6% year-on-year in February.
The weak business sentiment in the neighboring country, where economic activity was very restricted since they activated strict measures to contain the spread of the virus at the end of January, affected exports of petrochemical products, among others.
South Korea's exports fell 19.3% year-on-year in 2019, affected by a fall in the global semiconductor market and the prolonged trade dispute between China and the United States, its two largest trading partners.
By 2020, the Government estimates a 3% increase in the country's shipments due to the reduction of said commercial tension, however, the viral outbreak could affect the achievement of said goal.