The Korea Herald


Debts of public institutions under Trade Ministry rise to W182tr

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Oct. 3, 2019 - 20:28

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Public institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy have not recovered financially from past failures of overseas resource development projects, data showed Thursday.

According to data supplied by Rep. Wi Seong-gon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, the combined debt of 41 ministry-affiliated public institutions stood at 182 trillion won ($150 billion) last year, up 8 trillion won from the previous year. 

(Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy) (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)

“The debt of the public organizations has grown after the nation failed in overseas resource development. Compared to the debt of 91 trillion won in 2009, more than 90 trillion won has been added over the last nine years,” Wi said.

The combined assets of the public institutions also stood at 87 trillion won last year, down 3.7 trillion won from the previous year, according to the lawmaker.

Topping the list was the state-run Korea Coal Corp., which saw its outside loans double its total assets last year. The Korea Resources Corp., which operates as a mining company, also saw its debt dependency surge from 66.17 percent in 2014 to 146.93 percent in 2018.

“The financial difficulties of the public energy firms should not lead to the public burden. The Industry Ministry should take measures to improve their financial soundness,” said Rep. Wi.

The overseas resource development projects that the Lee Myung-bak administration highlighted have been continuously questioned, first by the Park Geun-hye government and now by the Moon Jae-in government.

In November 2017, the Industry Ministry set up a task force to review 81 ongoing projects related to overseas resource development. In May last year, the ministry asked the prosecution to launch investigations into some of the projects.

The ministry targeted three projects for investigation: the Boleo copper mine project in Mexico, pushed by the Korea Resources Corp.; the oil field development project by the Korea Natural Oil Corp., with Canada’s Harvest Energy; and the gas field project in West Cutbank in northeastern British Columbia by the Korea Gas Corp.

According to the Korean industry tracker CEO Score, the value of the overseas offices of the major public companies fell more than 2 trillion won over the last two years.

For instance, the Korea Gas Corp. saw a loss of 1 trillion won from its GLNG, a liquefied natural gas plant in Queensland, Australia. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power saw major losses from an overseas uranium mine that it had acquired from the Korea Electric Power Corp. The Korea Resources Corporation saw a net loss of 413 billion won after investing in Luxembourg.

By Shin Ji-hye (