South Korea in the first six months of the year had its biggest trade deficit for the year's first half since 1997.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the trade deficit came to 10.3 billion U.S. dollars despite exports in the first half reaching an all-time high on a rebound in global demand.
Exports came to around 3-hundred-50 billion dollars, up 15.6 percent on year.
There was an increase in shipments of goods in 14 major categories, the only exception being shipbuilding.
The surge was led by semiconductors and petrochemicals.
But all that was outweighed by the soaring cost of energy, which pushed imports up even more, by about 26 percent, to 3-hundred-61 billion dollars.
"The prices of oil, gas and coal soared by 41 billion dollars in the first half of the year, which drove the overall rise in the trade deficit. Other contributors were nonferrous metals and steel, which rose by 3 billion dollars."
An expert projects the country will continue to post a trade deficit for the rest of this year.
"Right now no one can really tell when the global inflation will end. But most analysts believe that the high prices will last until at least first half of next year. That means Korean trade deficit is likely to remain at a deficit until early next year. Or whenever the global inflation ends and the raw material prices starts to fall."
In the meantime, the Trade Ministry says it's going to take measures to keep the momentum in exports going by improving regulations.
Shin Ha-young, Arirang News.