SEOUL : South Korean exports grew in May at the fastest annual rate in four months, government data showed on Saturday, suggesting that the effects of the sharply depreciating yen has yet to stunt the recovery for Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Overseas shipments last month rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier $48.37 billion, the strongest growth seen since a 10.9 percent rise in January and accelerating from a 0.4 percent rise in April. The median forecast from a Reuters survey of 16 analysts tipped a 0.3 percent.

 on-year exports growth for May, with forecasts ranging from a 2.7 percent drop to a 5.0 percent rise.

Imports for May fell by 4.8 percent from a year earlier to $42.34 billion, weaker than a 2.0 percent fall tipped by the Reuters survey, translating to a trade surplus of $6.03 billion.

South Korea’s trade data is watched closely around the world because the country is the first major exporting economy to publish its monthly figures. South Korea is home to some of the world’s biggest manufacturers of cars, ships and smartphones.

Saturday’s data appears to support recent comments from local policymakers who say that the yen’s depreciation stemming from Japan’s massive money-printing campaign to beat deflation has yet to seriously undermine South Korea’s growth momentum.

Data from the trade ministry showed that South Korean shipments to the United States rose by 21.6 percent from a year earlier during May, while shipments to China rose by 16.6 percent.

Shipments to the crisis-hit European Union fell by 14.6 percent in annual terms last month, however, while shipments to Japan also fell by 11.7 percent due to the effects of the weaker yen.

Separate data released on Thursday showed that South Korea’s industrial output grew by a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in April from March, marking the first pickup in four months.

But policymakers have also warned that the effects of the depreciating yen will have a delayed effect on local exporters, suggesting that headwinds could grow stronger in the coming months. The won is up by nearly 9 percent against the yen so far this year despite being down by more than 5 percent against the dollar.