South Korean exports are set to stay at record levels in terms of value in the current quarter, helped by strong sales of steel, handsets and cars, the economy ministry said.

Exports shot up 30.4 percent to a record $131.8 billion in the first quarter from a year earlier, with imports up 25.7 percent to $123.4 billion, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement. That resulted in a trade surplus of $8.4 billion.

“Exports in the second quarter are expected to match the level of the first quarter, with steel, handset, and auto shipments showing double digit growth from a year ago thanks to global demand growth,” the statement said.

But shipments of vessels and flat-screen displays are expected to decline by 8 percent and 6 percent respectively due to weak demand and falling prices, it said.

South Korea is home to top global makers of flat-screens, memory chips and ships, including Samsung Electronics Co and Hyundai Heavy Industries.

A separate survey by an industry body forecast that exporters may have to revise their shipment targets should the won stay above 1,100 per dollar.

The currency has gained 4 percent so far this year against the dollar.

It is still widely perceived as undervalued considering the country’s economic fundamentals and the currencies of some trading partners.

In 2010, the won rose only 2.6 percent despite Asia’s fourth-largest economy posting its fastest growth in eight years of 6.2 percent. By comparison, the Japanese yen soared 14.5 percent to the dollar last year, making Japanese goods, many of which are in head-to-head competition with South Korean products, expensive overseas. (Reuters)