SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s exports rose 12.5 percent on-year in the first 20 days of March on robust shipments of chips and autos amid the pandemic, customs data showed Monday.

The country’s outbound shipments stood at US$33.9 billion in the March 1-20 period, compared with $30.1 billion a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.

Imports increased 16.3 percent on-year to $33 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $820 million during the cited period, the data showed.

This file photo, taken on March 2, 2021, shows ships carrying containers docking at a port in South Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

By sector, outbound shipments of memory chips, a key export item, rose 13.6 percent on-year during the cited period.

Semiconductors accounted for about 20 percent of exports by South Korea, home to Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest memory chip maker, and its smaller rival SK hynix Inc.

Outbound shipments of autos gained 13 percent, and exports of petroleum products also rose 12.4 percent amid an uptrend in oil prices.

By country, shipments to China — South Korea’s largest trading partner — rose 23.4 percent on-year, and those to the United States gained 7.4 percent.

The South Korean economy is on a recovery track, aided by robust exports of semiconductors and vehicles.

South Korea’s exports, which account for half of the economy, rose 9.5 percent in February from a year earlier to extend their gains for the fourth consecutive month.

Last year, the country’s overseas shipments came to $512.8 billion, down 5.4 percent from the previous year due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the Bank of Korea (BOK) revised up its 2021 growth forecast of exports to 7.1 percent from its estimate in November of 5.3 percent.