South Korea posted a trade surplus for the 19th straight month in August, but it contracted sharply from the previous month as imports grew faster than exports, the customs office said Thursday. The nation\'s trade surplus came to about US$500 million last month, down from $4.9 billion reported a month earlier, according to data by the Korea Customs Service. During the first eight months of the year, Korea\'s cumulative trade surplus reached $21 billion. Exports totaled $45.9 billion, down from $49.2 billion in July, while imports increased from $44.3 billion to $45.5 billion over the same period, the data showed. The slowing exports growth is attributed partly to fewer working days in August caused by summer vacations, the customs office said. Exports still gained 25.9 percent from a year earlier, driven by robust sales of petroleum products, ships and vehicles, which grew 82.7 percent, 79.9 percent and 33.7 percent on-year last month, the data showed. Exports bound for China jumped 21.2 percent to $11.65 billion. Shipments to Japan and the European Union also grew 44.9 percent and 12 percent on-year, respectively, according to the data. Imports increased mostly due to higher prices of raw materials, with costs of purchasing crude oil rising 45.8 percent on-year to $8.2 billion last month, the data showed.