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Fitch keeps S. Korea’s credit rating at AA-

Cargo ships anchored at Busan Port (Yonhap)
Cargo ships anchored at Busan Port (Yonhap)
Global credit appraiser Fitch Ratings said Wednesday that it would maintain South Korea’s stable credit rating and keep its economic growth projection positive, citing the country’s economic resilience.

During a webinar hosted by Fitch on assessing regional outlooks, Jeremy Zook, a director at Fitch Ratings, reaffirmed the credit rating for Asia’s fourth-largest economy at AA-, the fourth-highest level in the agency’s system, in line with its July projection. It has remained at that level since 2012.

“One of the most important factors that has driven Korea’s economic performance lies in the strength of exports. Demands for semiconductor and electronic products from Korea have boomed during the pandemic. And it has had very positive spillover into the manufacturing sector and has facilitated investments,” Zook said.

Korea’s exports might see moderate growth in the coming months, he predicted, but should remain strong given global back orders for durable consumer goods and the semiconductor chip shortage.

But Zook warned that Korea might face some challenges in maintaining its current credit profile over the long run.

“Korea’s rising housing price and household debt pose a threat. However, in our view, the weaker export demand due to China’s slowdown in economic growth is the biggest risk,” Zook said.

Addressing GDP growth, Zook forecasted a diminishing trend in the coming years, largely due to demographic changes such as the aging population. He predicted 4 percent growth in 2021, 3 percent in 2022 and 2.3 percent in 2023.

Stephen Schwartz, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, said although investment is continuously increasing and unemployment is falling in Korea, the aging population might slow down medium-term growth.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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