Korean SMEs’ exports down for 2nd consecutive year in 2023: data

Bomi Yoon

The Korea Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) building in Yeouido, Seoul / Courtesy of the Korea Federation of SMEs

The Korea Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) building in Yeouido, Seoul / Courtesy of the Korea Federation of SMEs

Exports of Korean small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) retreated for the second consecutive year last year, due to reduced outbound shipments to China, data showed Tuesday.

SME exports amounted to $111.8 billion in 2023, down 2.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data compiled by the Ministry of SMEs and Startups.

It marked the second straight on-year decrease following a 0.9 percent drop in 2022.

Despite the overall decrease in outbound shipments, the number of exporting SMEs rose 2.4 percent on-year to 94,635 last year.

SMEs pulled off positive growth in exports in six out of ten key export categories, including cosmetics and automobiles. However, the other four categories, such as plastic products and semiconductors, experienced a decrease.

Exports of cosmetics products jumped 20.2 percent on-year to $5.4 billion on successful diversification of trade partners amid weaker sales in China.

Automobile exports soared 57.4 percent to $4.9 billion largely driven by increased demand for used cars in countries neighboring Russia, where car production was halted due to the ongoing war with Ukraine.

By country, outbound shipments to China declined 10.5 percent on-year to $19.2 billion on sluggish chip demand amid the U.S.-China conflict and Chinese consumers’ patriotic spending on cosmetics.

Shipments to Vietnam, Japan and Taiwan also dropped 5.7 percent, 6.8 percent and 20.6 percent to $10.4 billion, $10 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.

But exports to the United States climbed 5.2 percent on-year to hit a record $17.1 billion, thanks to high demand for auto parts amid strong momentum in the U.S. automotive market.

Exports to Russia and Mexico also advanced 14.7 percent and 5.9 percent to $3.1 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively. (Yonhap)

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