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S. Korea’s GDP shrinks by 1.3% amid falling per capita income


South Korea’s real gross domestic product shrank 1.3 percent on-quarter in the first quarter of this year, nearly missing its previous forecast of 1.4 percent, data from the Bank of Korea showed Tuesday.

Through the contraction was 0.1 percentage point lower than the earlier estimate, it marked the largest on-quarter drop since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the country was reeling from the global financial crisis and the corresponding figure stood at 3.3 percent.

The country’s per capita gross national income in 2019 declined 4.3 percent to $32,115, with the central bank citing a rise in the won-dollar exchange rate. Last year, the rate rose by an annual average of 5.9 percent.

Experts have been expressing concerns that if the value of won continues to deteriorate, Asia’s fourth-largest economy’s per capita GNI could drop below $30,000 or to the level before 2017, when the figure first rose above the line. It has been maintaining above the level since then.

“The BOK’s growth forecast for 2020 currently stands at minus 0.2 percent and considering the 0.6 percent drop in GDP deflator in the first quarter (and other factors) this year’s nominal GDP growth stands at minus 1 percent,” said Park Yang-su, head of the BOK’s economic statistics department.

“If the value of won drops below 5 percent, then there is a possibility that the per capita GNI could plummet below the $30,000-level,” he added.

GDP is the total market value of all finished goods and services produced within a nation in a set period. GNI is the total income received by the country from its residents and businesses regardless of whether they are located in the country or abroad.

The data further showed that the export-reliant country’s exports slipped 1.4 percent on-quarter, with its imports dropping 3.6 percent on-quarter.

Its manufacturing sector output dropped 1 percent, and its service sector slipped 2.4 percent.

The central bank recently cut its growth outlook for this year to minus 0.2 percent, down from a 2.1 percent growth forecast in February.

By Jung Min-kyung (