South Korea's exports in the information technology (IT) sector rose the most in 27 months as global tech market showed signs of recovery, a government report showed Thursday. Exports in the IT industry increased 16.4 percent to 13.11 billion U.S. dollars in January compared with a year earlier, the highest expansion in 27 months and keeping the growth trend for five straight months, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. The increase came amid the global IT market recovery. According to an IT research firm Gartner, the global IT market was expected to grow 4.2 percent in 2013 after expanding 1.2 percent in the prior year. Strong shipments of smartphones such as Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S3 and LG Electronics' Optimus G led the January growth. Handset exports jumped 32.7 percent in January, with those to China and Vietnam surging 77.2 percent and 291.9 percent each. The ministry expected the mobile phone exports to maintain a growth trend, boosting expectations for record-level earnings of tech firms. Samsung Electronics' fourth-quarter operating profit topped prior record high for five straight quarters. LG Electronics saw its smartphone sales breach those for feature phones for the first time in the company's history. Helped by brisk exports, trade surplus in the IT sector reached 6.11 billion dollars in January, around 7 times the surplus for the overall industry. Imports in the sector rose 10.2 percent to 7 billion dollars. Semiconductor exports stayed above 4 billion dollars for six straight months due to demand for system chips. Exports of those chips, including mobile application processor for smartphones, increased for 41 straight months. Memory chip shipments declined amid the sluggishness in the global personal computer market. Shipments of display panels increased 15.2 percent in January after rising 10.4 percent in the prior month. Those for TVs made the first growth in 15 months as demand for LCD TVs strengthened amid the launches of premium smart TVs. Exports of computer and computer-related products such as printers and monitors increased 22.8 percent after falling 14 percent in December last year due to demand for solid state drive (SSD).