South Korea expects chip exports to increase by 10% in 2021

Country's export of semiconductors is expected to exceed $100 billion this year due to the growth of 5G and remote work.

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Samsung leader Lee Jae-yong, second from the right, toured his company's Pyeongtaek chip plant on the first working day of 2021.

Image: Samsung

South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) said on Tuesday that it expects a 10.2% year-on-year increase for semiconductor exports in 2021.

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The ministry said it forecasts exports of around $109.3 billion this year. If the estimate is achieved, it would be the second highest figure on record.

South Korea's semiconductor exports hit $126.7 billion in 2018, the country's highest ever. Local memory giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix posted record profits in that year.

In 2020, the country saw semiconductor exports hit $99.2 billion despite the COVID-19 pandemic and US sanctions against Huawei, thanks to solid demand from servers and notebooks due to an acceleration in the shift to remote services, MOTIE said.

In 2021, 5G market growth and the shift to remote services are both expected to continue, which will increase demand for semiconductors, the ministry said.

The smartphone market is expected to grow 2.4%, while the server and PC markets will grow 6% and 5.8%, respectively, it added.

Memory semiconductors will account for the majority of the export of around $71.6 billion. DRAM prices, meanwhile, are expected to increase and NAND flash prices are expected to drop slightly. The export of system semiconductors is expected to be around $32.4 billion with demand to be led by 5G modem chips, image sensors, contract chip production.

The ministry also said the country's competence in chip controllers is expected to increase when SK Hynix' acquisition of Intel's NAND unit is completed.

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