S Korea economy

South Korea’s small and medium sized enterprises have been losing competitiveness over the past several years, mirroring the declining power of its big export-based conglomerates called chaebol that have driven the country’s economic growth.

A report by the Korea Small Business Institute suggests businesses have failed to take advantage of government programmes to support SMEs and have shown a lack of innovation as they struggle to prosper in a sagging economy. Read more

You might be awkward in the spotlight and less than attractive but that need not stop you from becoming a television star, according to a burgeoning industry that has sprung up in Seoul to train and groom would-be TV announcers.

Korea’s three major broadcasting companies hire only three to five announcers a year, typically to host news or entertainment shows. The jobs are in high demand – a recent opening at the SBS network attracted 2,000 applicants – reflecting the prestige of the country’s successful entertainment industry, as well as an increasingly tough jobs market for young graduates. Read more

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 expectedRead more

South Korea’s industrial output hit a nine-month high, adding to investor confidence in the country’s recovery. But not everything is rosy about Asia’s fourth-largest economy amid growing concerns over corporate financing problems. Read more

South Korea’s new president Park Geun-hye is full of promises to boost the services sector, but for now her government is relying on powerful manufacturers to help fulfil her growth promises. And they are proving reluctant to throw everything they have at the task, judging by data published on Tuesday.

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The weaker yen and the deteriorating diplomatic relations are taking their toll on Japan’s investment in South Korea, government data showed on Monday.

Along with the yen’s weakness the strained bilateral relations with South Korea cut Japan’s pledged FDI in South Korea by 48.6 per cent to $1.36bn in the first six months of this year. Are there any bright spots for Korea? Read more

The Bank of Korea’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged at 2.5 per cent for a second month came as no surprise – instead, the focus was firmly on the central bank’s economic outlook.

The BoK raised its growth forecast for this year to 2.8 per cent from its previous 2.6 per cent and for next year to 4 per cent from its earlier 3.8 per cent. It’s a confident call. Is it too optimistic? Read more

South Korean retailers’ business sentiment has surged to a one-year high as they expect stronger sales during the summer holiday season and the traditional Chusok break in September.

The retail business survey index,rose to 105 for the July-September period, climbing above the neutral line of 100 for the first time since the third quarter of last year, according to a release on Wednesday from the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Read more

South Korea’s government gave its own policies a vote of confidence on Thursday as it raised its annual growth forecast from 2.3 to 2.7 per cent.

The revision came three months after an abrupt cut from December’s forecast of 3 per cent. Read more

South Korea’s new president has put technological innovation at the heart of her drive for a “creative economy”, and she is picking the brains of some of Silicon Valley’s leading names for inspiration.

On Tuesday it was the turn of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to visit Park Geun-hye at her official residence, after visits in April by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Google’s Larry Page.

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By Jeong Young-Sik of Samsung Economic Research Institute

With the won/yen exchange rate plummeting from 1,432 to 1,107 per 100 yen since last October, Korea’s exports, which largely compete head-to-head with Japan, are feeling the pinch. The true impact of the weak yen, however, has yet to be felt, as the real economy lags behind major moves in foreign exchange rates but there is little doubt that the effect will grow. Read more

A weak start to the new month for Asian equity markets following last week’s turmoil.

Investors worries’ about the possible end to the US Fed’s QE programme were compounded by generally gloomy PMI figures for key Asian economies, not least China. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.5 per cent lower at 3.30pm in Hong Kong. For emerging market investors the only consolation was that in Tokyo things were much worse, with the Nikkei closing 3.7 per cent down. Read more

In announcing a surprise rate cut on Thursday, South Korea’s central bank mentioned the yen only once in a statement of 523 words.

Governor Kim Choong-soo and his colleagues were probably just being polite in not pointing the finger at Tokyo. But it’s likely that the Japanese currency’s plunge on the forex markets looms much larger in their minds that the word-count suggests. Just look at the chart: perhaps Seoul might have held fire if the yen-won rate had stabilised in April. The latest drop in the Japanese currency may have pushed the central bank into action. Read more

The weaker yen is slowly hampering South Korea’s growth momentum, with the country’s industrial output falling 2.6 per cent in March from February.

The latest data marked a fall for a third straight month, clouding the country’s economic outlook. Industrial production fell 3.0 per cent last month from a year earlier, severely undershooting market estimates, as labour unions at Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, refused to work on weekendsRead more

Faltering exports, war threats, China slowdown, low inflation and a stalling economy, and a new government keen to promote growth: Korea’s central bank had a huge range of reasons to cut rates at its last couple of meetings.

But Thursday’s GDP data has vindicated the recent decisions to hold. Quarter on quarter growth was 0.9 per cent – it might not sound like much, but that’s the highest for two years. Read more

South Korea’s $15.4bn supplementary budget is expected help shore up the country’s short-term economic growth, but the long-awaited measures may not be enough to boost the country’s long-term growth potential.

The bigger-than-expected extra budget was unveiled on Tuesday to much fanfare with finance minister Hyun Oh-seok predicting that it will help drive up the country’s growth rate to about 3 per cent in the second half. Read more

By Song Jung-a and Stefan Wagstyl

War threats or no war threats, the Bank of Korea is keeping a cool head.

Despite the crisis with the North and political pressure for rate cuts to boost flagging growth and push down the won in response to the yen shock, the central bank on Thursday left its policy rate unchanged at 2.75 per cent. But for how long it can resist the calls for cuts is moot. Read more

James Tobin

South Korean government officials are flirting again with the idea of introducing taxes on financial transactions to curb rapid capital flows in and out of Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Eun Sung-soo, director general at the finance ministry, told reporters on Wednesday that the government was considering “various” financial taxes to reduce volatility in capital flows and could strengthen existing capital control measures, if needed. Read more

South Korea’s protracted housing slump is causing a headache to its new government. President Park Geun-hye faces a challenge in boosting stagnant property prices, which has been holding back domestic consumption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

South Korea’s house prices have been flagging for the past two years and are showing no signs of recovery this year with the economy forecast to grow only 2.8 per cent after last year’s estimated 2.0 per cent expansion. Read more

Not this time – maybe next. The Bank of Korea on Thursday left interest rates unchanged at 2.75 per cent for a fifth consecutive month, despite slowing economic growth and low inflation. Read more