Is South Korea Nearing an Economic Crisis?

I have always thought that South Korea is sitting on a massive real estate bubble considering all of its empty apartments that so many people have borrowed money invested in.  According to this article the debt problems in South Korea is far worse than just the real estate market:

One of the important aspects that gets missed about Korean exports is their overall lack of diversity. About 48 percent of all Korean exports consist of electronics and related components while 31 percent are transportation goods (cars, boats, and related parts). A game-changing shift in the playing field for any product area could spell a slow but steady downward spiral for the entire Korean economy. Even a 10 percent drop in exports would literally shrink the economy by 5 percent, costing tens of thousands of jobs that ultimately depend on export revenue, exacerbating the already high underemployment rate of 14 percent and youth unemployment rate of 9 percent.

With a retinue of Chinese firms like Huawei and Oppo hot on the heels of Samsung, a potential decline becomes even more plausible considering the fact that Korean corporate culture is not always the most favorable for fostering the development of next-generation ideas and technology, often the easiest (and sometimes only) way for technology companies to remain competitive. This lack of forward thinking is most striking in the clean energy field, where Korea has been completely left out of the latest developments, despite its global reputation for being a technology powerhouse.

Another key area of concern is corporate debt. South Korea’s total corporate debt is worth about 171 percent of its GDP. Although this high percentage is not unique to Korea (the U.S. and China have about 304 percent and 169 percent, respectively), Korea is more susceptible to adverse consequences for a number of reasons. The first is the high prevalence of “zombie companies,” corporate entities that have been unable to repay debt for at least three years running. It is estimated that about a quarter of all Korean corporate debt is held by zombie companies, unlikely to ever be repaid.  [The Diplomat]

You can read more at the link.

Household Debt Setting New Records In Korea

South Korea is really a housing bubble burst away from a major recession considering all the debt that people have tied up in their homes:

Record high household debt, including credit cards, edged closer to 1,090 trillion won ($994.3 billion) in December largely due to the central bank’s cut in the benchmark interest rate.

The Bank of Korea reported on Thursday that household debt at the end of December was 1,089 trillion won, a 2.8 percent increase from the previous record of 1,059.2 trillion won in the third quarter of 2014. When compared to the end of 2013, household debt expanded 6.6 percent from 1,021.4 trillion won.

Overall household debt has set records for seven consecutive quarters.(………………)

“The household debt to disposable income ratio, which is an indicator of households’ debt burden, at the end of 2013 was 160.7 percent, which is relatively high compared to major advanced economies, including the United States,” said Kim Yong-beom, director general of the financial policy bureau at the Financial Services Commission. “But the financial debt to financial asset ratio is holding steady at 46 percent. The government has been making persistent efforts to reform the structure of mortgage loans.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.