Ten years after the financial crisis of 1998, of sinister memory in Asia, end of the year 2008, the Korea crossed a very difficult password. Six months later, in April 2009, an OECD report has, on the contrary, pointed out that the Korea could be, and by far, the first advanced economies out of recession.
The industrial successes of the Korea are impressive. But poor raw materials, it has suffered in 2008 prices soaring; open to foreign capital since the release of the 1998 crisis, she, like all emerging countries, suffered the drying of international capital flows. On the first nine months of 2008, the current account recorded a deficit of nearly $ 14 billion. Add to that the deficiencies in the conduct of fiscal policy, the external situation turned nightmare after the bankruptcy of Lehman: capital withdrawals accelerated (55 billion in the fourth quarter), reserves accumulated over the past ten years, have quickly begun, from 260 billion in July to 205 in late December. Some killers editorials in the "Financial Times" then announced the imminence of an open crisis. It was premature.
The situation is indeed returned from November. The appointment of a new Minister of finance, Yoon Jeung-hyun, has marked the adoption of a more active strategy; an agreement to swap with the Fed change interventions have avoided the threshold of 200 billion of reserves is pressed. Above all, the financial crisis brought something positive, a depreciation of the won by 30: exporters grow lights. Major groups are in good financial health, they have a technological advantage, and they now have global brands such as Samsung and Hyundai can compete on equal terms with their Japanese competitors, such as Sony and Honda. This is what confirms the comparative evolution of market shares.
After having touched the worst, we understand that the relief is noticeable in Seoul. Already, the Korea (barely) avoided recession in the first half; the debt of the State, less than 40 of GNP, gives the Government a margin to support activity; the decline in prices of raw materials could reduce the oil bill of 8 to 4 of GDP in 2009, a real rebound restoring 4 real income in the economy; the relief which seems to begin in China is a factor of hope for exports; the return of the current balance in a net surplus, finally, and the decline in the amount of outstanding debts in the year within the reserves out the spectrum of the financial crisis.
The reversal happened in a few months demonstrates once again the Korean economy springs that have so often triggered surprise, or even the admiration of its partners for a quarter of a century. They will obviously not lead to a strong and sustainable recovery regardless of the international context.
It is quite natural that in hindsight disastrous activity, observed a consisting of almost reflex response to seek salvation in additional export. But the belief widespread in Seoul is rather that the economy is, as said by the President, "in the middle of a long tunnel". Need to go through restructuring ahead, related to overcapacity or bad debts. But in material financial liberalization was made with caution; It will not return back, re-regulation, simply told me one of my interlocutors because the essential link with the real economy has never been distended. Another major challenge, social cohesion. The latest data show that the Korea could soon exceed 1 million unemployed and, again, the reality is probably underestimated. Then, in this environment, spread awareness that it will take to correct the weaknesses of a model of growth too strongly drawn by export.
The Korea does not escape the uncertainties of the time, but it has, so far, meeting more strengths than many others to take advantage of the game this.