South Korea took over China\'s status as the world\'s leading shipbuilding nation by new orders in the first half by securing more deals for large, value-added vessels, a market researcher said Friday. Global market researcher Clarkson Research Services said that South Korean shipyards secured orders for 224 vessels totaling 8.92 million compensated gross tons (CGTs) in the January-June period, accounting for 53.2 percent of the global total. The amount exceeded the 258 ships with a combined 5.17 million CGTs clinched by Chinese shipyards. Clarkson Research Services also said the value of new ship orders won by South Korean shipbuilders reached US$31.4 billion, compared with $8.8 billion for its Chinese rivals. In 2003, South Korea became the world\'s top shipbuilding nation by outstripping Japan in three key categories: shipbuilding volume, order backlogs and new orders. But Chinese rivals outpaced South Korean shipyards in the number of new orders received and order backlogs in 2009 and 2010 as they gobbled up new orders at cheap prices. South Korean firms, however, have continued to focus on high-priced vessels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers and offshore facilities. In the first half of this year, four South Korean shipyards -- Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co. -- bagged new orders to build 25 LNG carriers, out of the total 29 orders placed worldwide during the period.