SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's trade surplus reduced in 2012 to 28.5 billion U.S. dollars due to a fall in exports, but the trade balance stayed in the black for four straight years, customs office data showed Monday.
According to Statistics Korea, the country's trade surplus continued to fall to 28.5 billion dollars in 2012 from 30.8 billion dollars in 2011 and 41.2 billion dollars in 2010.
The reduction was attributed to weak exports stemming from the global economic slowdown and the persistent European fiscal crisis, but the trade balance stayed in the black for four years in a row thanks to strong demand for locally-made automobiles and chemicals.
Exports declined 1.3 percent on-year to 548.1 billion dollars in 2012, and imports retreated 0.9 percent to 519.6 billion dollars over the same period.
Despite the falling exports and imports, trade volume topped the 1-trillion-dollar mark for two straight years. South Korea beat Italy to become the eighth largest trade country as of October 2012.
Exports to Europe tumbled 11.4 percent in 2012 from a year before amid the persistent fiscal crisis in the region, but those to the United States increased 4.1 percent last year due to positive effect from the free trade deal with the world's largest economy. Shipments to the Southeast Asian countries and the Middle East jumped 4.7 percent and 11.4 percent over the cited period.
Exports of oil products hit the record high of 56.7 billion dollars in 2012, up 9 percent from the prior year amid the higher global oil prices. Auto exports increased 3.6 percent on-year to reach the record high of 42.4 billion dollars last year.
Outbound shipments of semiconductors managed to edge up 0.1 percent to 50.9 billion dollars in 2012, but ship exports plunged 30.1 percent to 38.2 billion dollars. Telecommunication device exports sank 14.7 percent to 15.6 billion dollars due to an expansion of production in overseas factories.