SEOUL - South Korea's trade surplus fell in March from a year earlier due to a sharp fall in exports to debt-hit Europe and slowing sales to China, the government said Sunday.
The trade surplus was US$2.33 billion (S$2.9 billion), compared with US$2.48 billion in March 2011.
Exports fell to US$47.36 billion, down 1.4 per cent year-on-year, while imports also dipped 1.2 per cent to US$45.03 billion on falling purchases of products including memory chips, it said.
"Sales to the EU have dramatically dropped in the aftermath of its fiscal crisis and sales to China have considerably slowed, limiting our export growth," the Knowledge Economy Ministry said.
Exports to the European Union, South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, fell 20 per cent, while sales to China grew only 0.7 per cent in the same period, it said.
In March 2011, exports to China posted year-on-year growth of 9.2 per cent.
Overseas sales of South Korea's flagship mobile devices dropped 32 per cent from March 2011, it said. Exports of ships also tumbled 27.6 per cent as demand from major European shipping operators slowed.
Exports of home appliances including TVs also dipped 14.1 per cent.
"TV exports slowed as flat-panel TV markets in advanced countries are increasingly saturated.... Exports to China also fell as China's domestic firms expand presence," the ministry said.
However crisp overseas sales of cars, which jumped 35 per cent, helped offset the drop in overall exports, said the ministry.
But the surplus, an increase from US$1.52 billion posted in February, was better than expected.
The median forecast of nine economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires was for a trade surplus of US$1.8 billion.