Consumption in South Korea is showing signs of slumping as last month's deadly ferry disaster is hurting the overall consumer sentiment, the country's top economic policymaker said Tuesday.
The nation has been in deep mourning since the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol sank in waters off South Korea's southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.
People canceled festivals and gatherings in memory of those who lost their lives and their families. The confirmed death toll rose to 262 as of Tuesday morning, with 40 people still missing.
"We saw that the Sewol sinking incident last month is having some negative effect on private consumption and other related service-sector activities," Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said at a meeting with heads of economic think tanks in Seoul to discuss the latest economic conditions.
"As time goes by, some indicators are seeing their downturn ease or rebound, but it is inevitable that the private consumption trends will be affected to some extent," he added.
He cited retail sales, spending on cultural facilities and tourism are among the areas being affected by the frozen consumption sentiment in the wake of the ferry disaster.
His remarks came amid some signs that consumption might be bouncing back from a slump.
The latest government data showed that the country's retail sales rose 1.6 percent on-month in March, marking a turnaround from the 3 percent fall in February.
The economy grew 0.9 percent on-quarter during the first quarter of this year, following the same 0.9 percent gain registered in the fourth quarter. Compared with a year earlier, it grew 3.9 percent. (Yonhap)