South Korea’s exports fell sharply last month, the government said yesterday, while automakers took steps to cut production amid slumping demand for vehicles amid the weak global economy.
Exports dropped 18.3 percent last month from the same month last year to US$29.26 billion, the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement.
Imports fell 14.6 percent to US$28.97 billion for a trade surplus of US$297 million.
The ministry cited economic doldrums overseas for the drop in exports. Falling international crude oil prices and the declining won hit imports.
South Korea is a major exporting nation and home to Samsung Electronics Co and Hyundai Motor Co. Economic growth next year is expected to slow considerably, with some even predicting the country could experience its first contraction in more than a decade.
The ministry said that exports of South Korean auto-related products slumped 30.8 percent last month.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that the fall in exports was the biggest since December 2001, when they slid 20.4 percent.
Separately, the South Korean unit of General Motors Corp began an extended production shutdown at one of its four domestic plants.
GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co said that production at its No. 2 plant in the city of Bupyeong, near Seoul, stopped last Tuesday as planned and would not resume until Jan. 5, said Park Hae-ho, a company spokesman.
GM Daewoo plans to close down three other plants from Dec. 22 until Jan. 4.
The automaker sold nearly 960,000 vehicles last year, most of them exported.
The company is South Korea’s third-largest automaker, trailing Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp.
GM Daewoo was created in 2002 after Detroit-based General Motors acquired Daewoo Motor Co, the automobile unit of the Daewoo Group, a huge conglomerate that collapsed under mountains of debt as a result of the 1997 to 1998 Asian economic crisis.
Hyundai, meanwhile, said yesterday it was slashing overtime for the first time since 1998.
Hyundai spokesman Ki Jin-ho said that the company had decided there was no need for overtime work and weekend shifts this month at six of the company’s seven plants in South Korea amid weak overseas and domestic demand.
Hyundai’s No. 3 plant in the southeastern city of Ulsan, which manufactures the compact Elantra sedan and hatchback i30, would continue with overtime and weekend work, Ki said.