SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) — South Korean chipmakers’ spending on equipment soared 61 percent last year from a year earlier, the largest growth among major chip producing countries, industry data showed Wednesday.

South Korea, home to major memory chip producers Samsung Electronics Co. and SK hynix Inc., spent US$16.08 billion in 2020, up from $9.91 billion in 2019, according to a report from SEMI, a global industry association representing companies in the electronics design and manufacturing supply chain.

Despite its sharp increase, South Korea was the third-largest market for new semiconductor equipment last year.

For the first time, China topped the ranking after its chip manufacturing equipment spending grew 39 percent on-year to $18.72 billion.

Taiwan, led by the world’s No. 1 foundry maker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), dropped to the second spot with $17.15 billion after its chip equipment sales stayed nearly flat from a year earlier.

Global sales of semiconductor manufacturing equipment hit a record high of $71.2 billion last year, up 19 percent from a year ago, according to SEMI.

By sector, global sales of wafer processing equipment rose 19 percent in 2020, while those of assembly and packaging posted a 34 percent increase. Total test equipment sales increased 20 percent year-on-year in 2020.