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Falling unemployment, improving exports and a rush back into emerging markets assets gave investors plenty of reasons to buy the South Korean won on Wednesday.

But they are not enough to explain the size of the swing in the exchange rate – a rise of more than 1 per cent to a six year high of 1041.75 against the dollar.

Could that be due to a shift in the stance of South Korean policy makers? Continue reading »

South Korea’s stock exchange opened a gold trading platform on Monday with the hope of boosting transparency of gold trades and rooting out shady deals used for tax evasion.

Eight brokerages and 49 dealers were allowed to participate in the market. They will get tax benefits to encourage their active participation and they will be exempted from trading commissions temporarily until March 2015. Importers of gold to be traded on the exchange will also be exempted from tariffs to increase supply. Continue reading »

Oh no, Hyundai Motor has overstated its fuel-mileage figures again. This might be the last thing the South Korean carmaker needs after the company agreed to pay compensation last year for exaggerating its mileage numbers for more than 1m autos sold in the US.

Yet on Monday, Hyundai was expressing “regret” for more over-hyped fuel efficiency claims. Continue reading »

Source: HSBC / Markit

The monthly temperature-taking of Asian manufacturing, aka the purchasing managers index, is out for some of Asia’s bigger economies – and at first glance, things look good.

China may have seen its HSBC/Markit (in contrast to the official government) index fall below the 50 mark that separates contraction from expansion, but India, Indonesia and South Korea all look in good shape.

Or do they? Continue reading »

South Korea’s pride got a boost last year when it was chosen to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund, aimed at channeling billions of dollars to help developing countries mitigate the effects of climate change. But the challenges facing the fund loomed large on Wednesday at its star-studded launch in the new business zone of Songdo, near Seoul.

 Continue reading »

Partners in wealth

Wednesday’s announcement that Russia and South Korea would work together on an economic project in North Korea slightly overshadowed another significant announcement linked to Putin’s Seoul visit: a new cross-border investment fund between Korea Investment Corporation and its Russian sovereign wealth fund counterpart, the Russian Direct Investment Corporation.

The fund will start out at $500m, with commitments of $250m apiece, but is expected to reach $1bn in time. It also gives an illustration of how the two sovereign wealth funds are evolving. Continue reading »

“Eat as much as you can!” cries the director of the forthcoming soap opera Let’s Eat, scrutinising her from behind two video screens and his thick black-rimmed glasses. “If it’s hot then show it – let’s see you gulping! And bring her some more green vegetables to make it more colourful!”

As crew members top up her plate once more, Ms Lee discreetly spits a half-chewed morsel into a bucket by her side.

Making South Korean television drama is hard work, and not always glamorous. Yet the results are consumed avidly by viewers from the Mongolian steppes to the congested streets of Jakarta. Continue reading »

South Korea will lift a five-year ban on short-selling financial stocks on Thursday to boost trading activities as market conditions have improved this year on strong foreign buying, reports the FT’s Song Jung-a in Seoul. Continue reading »

Developed?

The MSCI, the US company from which beyondbrics gets its definition of an emerging market, today issued revisions to its EM equity index.

Three Greek banks have been added to the index; two Moroccan banks and Maroc Telecom have been removed. (As of November, Greece is classed as an emerging market, and former EM Morocco is a frontier market.)

One big change hasn’t happened though – which will puzzle some commentators. South Korea is still deemed an emerging market. Continue reading »

By Kim Kyung-Hoon of SERI

Global investors who have shifted to “safer” Korea from southeast Asia should not assume they are unbuckled completely. Korea is raising its bet on Asean and its corporations’ balance sheets should increasingly reflect the economic direction of the 10-nation bloc.

Fronting the push is President Park Geun-hye’s self-styled “sales diplomacy.” Continue reading »

PMI scores | Source: HSBC / Markit

Asian manufacturers are more positive than any point since April, according to the latest Markit / HSBC PMI surveys.

The purchasing managers index for October for six Asian economies (China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam) showed that five scored over the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, and with none showing a decline in sentiment. It’s a big improvement on just two months ago when only China was showing any postive signs. Continue reading »

It’s been a tough year so far for Hyundai Motor. Following the stronger won (eroding competitiveness) and labour problems, the South Korean carmaker now has to deal with brake problems.

Hyundai said on Tuesday it would recall about 27,500 Genesis sedans to replace the brake fluid, which does not have a corrosion inhibitor, as the problem could cause braking failure. The recall affects the luxury sedans produced between April 2008 and March 2012. Continue reading »

One casualty of the recent deterioration in relations between South Korea and Japan has been the two countries’ currency swap agreement, which has shrunk from $70bn to $10bn over the past year. But Seoul is showing plenty of appetite for swap deals with some other trading partners in the region. Continue reading »

Kim Choong-soo: still optimistic

At a time of growing external uncertainties, economic projections seem a touch meaningless.

Still, the Bank of Korea on Thursday cut its growth forecast for next year to 3.8 per cent from its July estimate of 4.0 per cent, citing increasing “downside risks” from the US fiscal impasse. The Bank also held interest rates steady at 2.5 per cent, as expectedContinue reading »