South Korea

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The South Korean won hit its lowest point against the U.S. dollar in nearly 13 years on Thursday, opening at 1,299 won and weakening to more than 1,300 in intraday trading, the New York Times reported. The last time the country’s currency breached the 1,300-won threshold was in the summer of 2009, toward the end of the global financial crisis. The won also passed this threshold during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. South Korea’s export-driven economy makes it particularly sensitive to conditions in the global economy, which have been deteriorating recently.
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The South Korean government reached a deal with truckers to extend a minimum-wage plan, ending a weeklong strike that had snarled supply chains in one of Asia’s export powerhouses, the Wall Street Journal reported. The truckers union agreed to return to work immediately after reaching a deal with the transport ministry late Tuesday, bringing a close to the standoff over wages that had been aggravated by rising fuel prices. Under the deal, the transport ministry will extend a minimum-wage plan that was set to expire at the end of the year.
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Thousands of South Korean truckers went on strike for a third day on Thursday to protest the sharp surge in fuel costs, disrupting production, slowing activity at ports and posing new risks to a strained global supply chain, Reuters reported. Presenting new President Yoon Suk-yeol with one of his first big economic challenges, about 7,200 members or roughly 30% of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity union were on strike, the country's transport ministry said. A union official said the number of participating members was much higher and they were also joined by non-union truckers.
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A steady stream of Koreans in the prime of their working life have sought personal bankruptcy protection over the past few years, Chosun.com reported. Most younger people used to opt for personal rehabilitation, which involves debt restructuring, but now a growing number have no choice but to plumb for total bankruptcy as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. According to the Seoul Bankruptcy Court, 5.7 percent of applicants were in their 30s and 16.7 percent were in their 40s as of the end of last year.
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South Korea's central bank is likely to hike its benchmark rate at a second consecutive meeting on Thursday to combat inflation running at more than double its target, taking rates higher by year end than previously thought, a Reuters poll showed. Inflation in Asia's fourth-largest economy rose to more than a 13-year high of 4.8% in April, as repercussions from the Russia-Ukraine war and a weakening won , down 7% this year, ramped up prices. Inflation has stayed above the central bank's target of 2.0% for more than a year.
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Reckoning they have little to lose with prices so ridiculously low, South Korean speculators in recent days have piled into Luna, a cryptocurrency that lost 99.99% of its value last week after its paired stablecoin TerraUSD collapsed, Reuters reported. Both tokens are affiliated with Terra, a blockchain platform co-founded by Korean developer Do Kwon and, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, investors in them have lost around $42 billion.
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The Seoul Bankruptcy Court on Friday selected a consortium led by chemical-to-steel conglomerate KG Group as the designated buyer of the debt-ridden automaker SsangYong Motor Co., the Yonhap News Agency reported. The decision approves the consortium between KG and homegrown private equity (PE) firm Pavilion PE as the new candidate to take over the automaker after a previous sales deal with local electric vehicle maker Edison Motors Co. fell apart. SsangYong has been under court receivership since April 15, 2021, after its Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.
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South Korea's factory activity accelerated in April, but cost pressures due to the Ukraine crisis and China's strict lockdown measures continued to weigh heavily on manufacturers, a private-sector survey showed on Monday, Reuters reported. The S&P Global purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 52.1 in April from 51.2 in March, standing above the 50-mark threshold for the 19th straight month that indicates expansion in activity. Output returned to expansion after shrinking in March, with new orders increasing at a faster pace, though those for exports continued to decrease.
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Bank of Korea Governor Rhee Chang-yong highlighted rapidly rising private and public debt and an aging population as threats to South Korea’s economic outlook in his inauguration speech. Rhee took office Thursday after being nominated by President Moon Jae-in almost a month ago. He has so far expressed support for higher interest rates to rein in inflationary pressures while pointing to economic risks from the war in Ukraine, China’s virus lockdowns and the Federal Reserve tightening.
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A Seoul court on Thursday approved a new auction to sell debt-ridden SsangYong Motor Co. following its preferred bidder's payment failure for the carmaker last month, Yonhap News Agency reported. In January, Edison Motors Co. signed a deal to acquire SsangYong for 304.8 billion won (US$249 million). But the deal collapsed as the electric bus maker failed to make the full payment by the March 25 deadline. The Seoul Bankruptcy Court extended the deadline for SsangYong to find a new owner and submit a new restructuring plan by six months until Oct. 15.
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