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South Korea just posted its biggest-ever trade surplus, and that’s not a good sign

container ships shipping south korea
AP Photo/Andy Wong
Light traffic.
By Melvin Backman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The state of the South Korean economy is such that a record trade surplus of more than $10 billion is still bad news, even for a country heavily dependent on exports.

The only reason the surplus has gotten so huge is because imports are falling much faster than exports.

This suggests that the South Korean economy is getting really soft, especially considering that the won has been getting stronger. (A strengthening currency usually has the opposite effect on trade since it makes imports relatively cheaper.)

And the recent MERS outbreak isn’t likely to make things any easier. As Quartz’s Heather Timmons noted last month, the scare is bad news for the tourism industry, and beyond:

The most immediate sector of South Korea’s economy that is likely to be hit by the MERS outbreak is tourism. But as Hong Kong’s 2003 SARS outbreak showed (pdf, pg. 2), a prolonged epidemic of an infectious disease can also cut domestic consumption and exports, and ultimately impact the local property market.

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