Results from the computer memory chip sector suggest that online and on-demand businesses are benefiting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: AFP

In the first 20 days of May, South Korea recorded exports worth US$20.3 billion, a plunge of 20.3% year-on-year, according to customs data obtained by Yonhap news agency.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to tear a swathe through the global economy, the numbers from South Korea – which, with its economy 70% dependent upon trade is widely seen as one of the world’s economic weathervanes – reinforced widespread expectations of bloody economic days ahead.

Related data sets buttress the dark view. So far for 2020, South Korea’s exports are down 9.5% compared to the previous period last year. The country also suffered a trade deficit of $950 million in April – breaking a 98-month run of trade surpluses, Yonhap noted.

For the 20 days of May period, as regards destinations, shipments to China, Korea’s top trading partner, dipped only 1.7% on-year, while exports to its number two customer, the United States, plummeted 27.9%.

Shipments of autos, a key Korean export, dived by 58.6% year-on-year for the May period.

However, there was one bright spot. Exports of memory chips – the country’s flagship trade item – rose 13. 4%, Yonhap noted.

Semiconductors have been seeing a welcome upturn after a long cyclical downturn in 2019, and with online services enjoying soaring uptake amid quarantine lockdowns, chip sales are flying to meet the related rise in server demand.