The Korea Herald


Debt woes weigh on Korean economy

By 황장진

Published : April 3, 2011 - 19:31

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Debts owed by the government, individuals and companies in Korea reached a record high last year, data showed on Sunday, raising concerns that the high level of debts could derail the economy off the recovery track.

According to data compiled by the Bank of Korea, their interest-bearing debts reached 2,586 trillion won ($2.37 trillion) at the end of last year, up 7.4 percent from 2,408 trillion won a year ago.

The debts are roughly 2.2 times the country’s nominal gross domestic product, which reached 1,172 trillion won last year, data showed.

By sector, individuals’ debts reached 937.2 trillion won at the end of last year, up 8.9 percent from a year ago, and the debts are expected to exceed the 1,000-trillion mark this year.

Public firms owed 254.7 trillion won in debts at the end of last year, and the government has debts totaling 367 trillion won, data showed.

Private companies had the largest amount of debts at 1,281 trillion won, they showed.

The heap of debts owed by each sector is feared to dent the country’s solid economic growth, experts said.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy, however, has recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis. The economy grew 6.2 percent last year, compared with a 0.3 percent expansion in 2009 when it was hit by the global slump that followed the financial meltdown of late 2008. 

In March, the Bank of Korea raised the key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 3 percent to tame inflation. The central bank has hiked the borrowing costs in four steps since July of last year from a record low of 2 percent. 

(Yonhap News)