South Korea's exports fell 7.8 percent on-year in the first 20 days of this month due mainly to weak demand from China and fewer working days, but sales of semiconductors soared nearly 40 percent, data showed Wednesday.

Outbound shipments reached US$30.72 billion in the Feb. 1-20 period, compared with $33.33 billion tallied a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.

Per-day exports, however, advanced 9.9 percent on-year to $2.36 billion.

The number of working days came to 13 days during the cited period this year, compared with 15.5 days a year earlier. South Korea's Lunar New Year holiday ran from Feb. 9-12 this year.

In January, exports, a key economic growth engine, advanced 18 percent on-year to $54.6 billion, the fourth consecutive monthly gain, on the back of strong demand for semiconductors.

Imports decreased 19.2 percent on-year to $31.95 billion during the first 20 days of February due to declining energy imports, resulting in a trade deficit of $1.23 billion, the data showed.

By item, exports of semiconductors surged 39.1 percent to $5.29 billion during the Feb. 1-20 period.

It marked the sharpest growth during the first 20 days of a month since August 2021 when chip exports jumped 39.1 percent.

Chip sales accounted for 17.2 percent of the country's total exports, up 5.8 percentage points from a year earlier.

But exports of petroleum products fell 6.4 percent to $2.88 billion and car exports sank 23.3 percent to $2.57 billion.

Exports of steel products and auto parts also went down 16.8 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively.

By destination, shipments to China shed 12.8 percent to $5.82 billion, and those to the United States, a top trading partner, decreased 5 percent to $5.69 billion.

Exports to the European Union lost 22.8 percent to $3.29 billion, and those to Vietnam declined 12.2 percent to $2.55 billion.

But exports to Hong Kong surged 129.1 percent to $1.41 billion, the data showed.

The government expected exports to advance 8.5 percent this year to reach a record high of over $700 billion.