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Loans to self-employed spike at record pace

Loans extended to the self-employed by South Korean lenders this year have surged at the fastest clip ever, central bank data showed Sunday, adding to concerns over the country's bulky and still growing household debt.

Local lenders' outstanding loans to the self-employed reached 229.7 trillion won ($193.7 billion) as of the end of August, growing 20.4 trillion won from the end of last year, according to the data compiled by the Bank of Korea.

The increase in the eight-month period is bigger than the previous record growth of 19.8 trillion won posted in 2007.

Loans extended to the self-employed spiked 3.7 trillion won in July alone, marking the highest monthly growth since the data was compiled.

Loans to the self-employed have been rising in recent years as banks turned to the market to make up for a decline in mortgage loans, with the local property market hitting a snag following the global financial crisis.

Such loans increased 13 trillion won in 2011, 15 trillion won in 2012, 17.1 trillion won in 2013 and 18.8 trillion won in 2014.

Economists said the recent spike in loans to the self-employed is more dangerous than it seems as some cash-strapped entrepreneurs borrow funds not to use for their businesses but to use for living expenses.

"The fact that loans to the self-employed increased at the fastest pace means that those who are borrowing are in a really tough situation," said Kim Sang-jo, a professor at Hansung University in Seoul. (Yonhap)
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