South Korea exports hit record high in 2014

South Korea enjoyed record exports last year, despite slow economic growth in key market China and a sluggish recovery in Europe (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

South Korea enjoyed record exports last year, data showed Thursday, despite slow economic growth in key market China and a sluggish recovery in Europe.

For the whole of 2014, overseas shipments grew 2.4 percent to $573.1 billion and imports rose 2.0 percent to $525.70 billion, the trade ministry said.

As a result, South Korea's trade surplus widened to a record high of $47.41 billion, it said. The trade balance has been in the black since February 2012.

In December alone, exports rose 3.7 percent year on year to $49.74 billion, while imports fell 0.9 percent to $43.96 billion. Trade surplus widened to $5.78 billion in December from the previous month's $5.51 billion.

The trade ministry attributed the 2014 increase in exports partly to South Korea's free-trade agreements, including with the United States.

Last year exports to the United States increased 13.4 percent, while those to China fell 0.9 percent, it said.

The ministry predicted South Korea's overall exports are expected to rise 3.7 percent to $594 billion this year.