(Adds won, economic growth)
SEOUL Feb 16 South Korean exports in January
performed worse than initially estimated as revised figures from
the customs agency showed on Monday overseas shipments for the
month dropped a record 33.8 percent from a year earlier.
That was worse than a provisional 32.8 percent annual drop
reported in provisional figures released on Feb. 2 by the
Ministry of Knowledge Economy and showed once again the global
recession was deepening.
Imports for January were revised to 31.9 percent less than a
year earlier from a provisional 32.1 percent decline, the Korea
Customs Service data showed.
The revised export and import figures produced a trade
deficit of $3.36 billion, bigger than a provisional $2.97 billion
shortfall reported earlier, the data showed.
The revised trade figures dealt a further blow to the already
weak won KRW=, driving the currency down to as low as 1,415.6
per dollar, its weakest level in nearly 10 weeks, from Friday's
close of 1,404.2.
Exports to China, South Korea's biggest market, fell a record
38.6 percent in January from a year earlier. Exports to the
United States dropped 27.8 percent over a year before, marking
the sharpest annual loss since December 2001.
The data comes after the central bank slashed interest rates
by 50 basis points to a record-low 2.0 percent on Thursday last
week, its sixth rate cut in four months aimed at pulling Asia's
fourth-largest economy away from a looming recession.
The figures also place President Lee Myung-bak's government
under more pressure to adopt additional stimulus measures to
revive domestic demand to cushion the impact of shrinking global
appetite for South Korean goods.
South Korea's new finance minister, Yoon Jeung-hyun, warned
on his inauguration day last week that the local economy would
contract by 2 percent this year, sharply cutting the ministry's
previous forecast of 3 percent growth.
Many private-sector experts are more pessimistic, with
brokerages such as CLSA predicting a contraction of as much as 7
percent this year, which would be the worst performance in the
country's nearly 40-year period of industrialisation.
Minister Yoon promised to submit to parliament additional
spending plans by next month.
(Reporting by Yoo Choonsik; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)