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SMEs' exports edge down in 2020 despite pandemic

South Korean SMEs' exports (Yonhap)
South Korean SMEs' exports (Yonhap)
South Korea's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) saw their exports inch down in 2020 from a year earlier despite the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Tuesday.

SMEs' overseas shipments totaled $100.8 billion last year, down 0.2 percent from the previous year, according to the data from the Ministry of SMEs and Startups.

The decrease compared with a 6.7 percent decline in exports by middling and large companies. Smaller firms' exports accounted for 19.7 percent of South Korea's total overseas shipments, up from 18.6 percent a year earlier.

SMEs' exports grew 1.7 percent on-year in the first quarter of last year but tumbled 13.7 percent in the second quarter before expanding 3.6 percent and 7.9 percent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

In particular, SMEs' overseas shipments hit a record high of $28.8 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

The ministry ascribed their relatively good performance to a surge in exports of coronavirus test kits and online overseas shipments.

South Korean smaller companies exported $90 million worth of test kits to 179 countries last year, up nearly 3,000 percent from a year earlier.

Their online exports stood at $730 million, up 106.3 percent from the previous year, which was far higher than the 46 percent increase recorded in 2019.

Asia accounted for 61.2 percent of SMEs' exports last year, down from 63.4 percent from the prior year. North America's share rose to 13.7 percent from 12.6 percent, with that of Europe climbed to 14.6 percent from 13.2 percent. (Yonhap)
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