The US is losing its long-standing status as the number one trading partner of South Korea, with the gap in the nation’s exports to China and to the U.S. becoming larger since China became the largest market for Korean exports in 2003.

According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), exports to China rose by 50.7% to $11.05 billion between January and March this year, while outbound shipments to the US market amounted to $9.28 billion.

The difference in exports to China and to the US was $1.76 billion in the first quarter of this year, 1.98 times larger than $8.9 billion for the entire 2003.

China took in 18.6% of Korea’s global exports in the first quarter.

The so-called Chinese economies, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, absorbed 31.2% of the nation’s outbound shipments in the first quarter. Exports to Hong Kong and Taiwan topped $5.38 billion and $2.15 billion from January to March, the KITA reported.

Hong Kong overtook Japan in the first quarter to become the nation’s third largest export market. Japan became the fourth largest export market for Korea.

The KITA estimated that if the China’s economic growth rate falls by one percentage point, South Korean exports to China could fall by 2.7%. (The Korea Times)