SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s exports advanced 1.2 percent on-year in the first 20 days of December helped by strong sales of chips, customs data showed Monday.

The country’s outbound shipments stood at US$30.8 billion in the Dec. 1-20 period, compared with $30.4 billion a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.

Imports decreased 8 percent on-year to $27.7 billion in the 20-day period, resulting in a trade surplus of $3 billion, the data showed.

Over the January to Dec. 20 period, Asia’s No. 4 economy saw its outbound shipments decrease 6.6 percent on-year to $492 billion, and imports declined 8 percent to $450 billion.

By sector, outbound shipments of chips shot up 26.4 percent on-year over the first 20 days of December. Semiconductors account for about 20 percent of exports by South Korea.

Overseas sales of mobile devices moved up 38.3 percent as well.

Exports of petrochemical products, however, halved apparently due to the weak global crude price.

Shipments of auto parts gathered 3.5 percent, while those of vehicles slightly fell by 3.5 percent over the period.

By destination, shipments to China, the top trading partner, fell 2.3 percent. Those to the United States, on the other hand, edged up 0.7 percent.

Exports to the European Union and Vietnam advanced 14.6 percent and 25.9 percent, respectively, according to the data.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has dealt a harsh blow to the global economy, has strained South Korea’s outbound shipments, before posting a rebound over recent months.

South Korean exports extended their slump to a sixth month in August, before rebounding 7.3 percent in September on increased shipments of chips and automobiles. In October, exports moved down 3.8 percent due to fewer working days and a resurgence in the virus.

In November, South Korea’s exports grew 4 percent on-year, separate data from the trade ministry showed.