South Korea/Economy

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Economy - overview: As one of the Four Dragons of East Asia, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth. Three decades ago its GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Today its GDP per capita is seven times India's, 13 times North Korea's, and comparable to the lesser economies of the European Union. This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed certain longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. By 1999 it had recovered financial stability, turning a substantial decline in 1998 into strong growth in 1999. Seoul has also pressed the country's largest business groups to swap subsidiaries to promote specialization, and the administration has directed many of the mid-sized conglomerates into debt-workout programs with creditor banks. The major economic challenge for the next several years presumably is the maintenance of the pace of market reforms to restore the old growth pattern.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $625.7 billion (1999 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 10% (1999 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $13,300 (1999 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 45%
services: 50% (1998 est.)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.8% (1999 est.)

Labor force: 22 million (1998)

Labor force - by occupation: services and other 68%, mining and manufacturing 20%, agriculture, fishing, forestry 12% (1998)

Unemployment rate: 6.3% (1999 est.)

Budget:
revenues: $68.9 billion
expenditures: $82.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $14.5 billion (1998)

Industries: electronics, automobile production, chemicals, shipbuilding, steel, textiles, clothing, footwear, food processing

Industrial production growth rate: 22% (1999 est.)

Electricity - production: 221.258 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 59.56%
hydro: 1.91%
nuclear: 38.51%
other: 0.02% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 205.77 billion kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: rice, root crops, barley, vegetables, fruit; cattle, pigs, chickens, milk, eggs; fish

Exports: $144 billion (f.o.b., 1999)

Exports - commodities: electronic products, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, steel, ships; textiles, clothing, footwear; fish

Exports - partners: US 17%, Japan 9%, China 9%, Hong Kong 7%, Taiwan 4% (1998)

Imports: $116 billion (c.i.f., 1999)

Imports - commodities: machinery, electronics and electronic equipment, oil, steel, transport equipment, textiles, organic chemicals, grains

Imports - partners: US 22%, Japan 18%, China 7%, Australia 5%, Saudi Arabia 5% (1998)

Debt - external: $142 billion (1999)

Economic aid - recipient: $NA

Currency: 1 South Korean won (W) = 100 chun (theoretical)

Exchange rates: South Korean won (W) per US$1 - 1,130.32 (January 2000), 1,188.82 (1999), 1,401.44 (1998), 951.29 (1997), 804.45 (1996), 771.27 (1995)

Fiscal year: calendar year