SEOUL-- South Korea's exports reached the annual US$500 billion mark at the fastest pace ever this year, thanks mainly to strong sales in memory chips and petrochemical products, the trade ministry said Friday.

The total shipments from Asia's fourth-largest economy stood at $501.2 billion as of 2 p.m. Thursday. The milestone number was reached in the least amount of time since related data was compiled starting in 1956, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.

With imports tallied at $416 billion in 2017, the total trade volume is expected to surpass $1 trillion won this year, the ministry said.

Brisk sales in semiconductor, petrochemical and steel propelled the growth, while shipments to major trading partners, including China, Southeastern Asian nations and India, increased on roust demand, it noted.

Source: Yonhap News Agency