Overseas credit card purchases by South Koreans rose 41.7 percent over the past five years, data showed Friday, raising concerns that the trend may spark a social disharmony amid the economic slump.
Overseas credit card bills totaled 5.5 trillion won ($5.1 billion) last year, rising sharply from the 3.1 trillion won tallied in 2008, according to the data compiled by the Credit Finance Association submitted to parliament.
The number of cardholders making purchases overseas doubled over the cited period to reach 20.3 million in 2012, compared to 9.37 million in 2008. Around 68 million cardholders made overseas transactions between 2008-2012.
"As 10.9 million cardholders made purchases overseas in the first half of 2013, it is likely that this year's figure will surpass the 20 million mark," said Rep. Hong Jong-hak of the main opposition Democratic Party.
The parliamentary data also showed that 73 cardholders made purchases hovering above $500,000 in 2012, rising sharply from 37 in 2008, indicating more South Koreans are making large-sum transactions overseas.
"Given that the country's economy is suffering a slump, we must consider whether a surge in overseas credit card spending is appropriate," Hong added. "Especially, a steep rise in large-sum purchases is feared to spark a social disharmony (among income brackets)." (Yonhap News)