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S. Korea’s housing prices soar ahead of real economy


South Korea’s housing prices were 2.64 times that of the gross domestic product in 2019, as the property market spiked, central bank data showed Sunday.

Last year, the aggregate market price of houses here came to 5.67 quadrillion won ($4.62 trillion), up 7.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the Bank of Korea.

The corresponding figure exceeded the 1 quadrillion won mark for the first time in 2000 and doubled up during the next six years to surpass 2 quadrillion won in 2006. During the 2016-2019 period, however, it took less than three years for the amount to expand by 1 quadrillion won.

Since monetary authorities started compiling such data in 1995, the market value total of housing prices here has always been on an uptrend -- except in 1998 when the nation faced the Asian financial crisis.

The on-year increase had peaked at 16.8 percent in 2002, which was the last year of the progressive Kim Dae-jung administration.

Though the 7.4 percent on-year expansion for 2019 iss not the highest yet observed, the latest figures reached a record-high level compared to the economic size -- 2.64 times that of nominal gross domestic product.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw its nominal GDP growth shrink from 5.45 percent in 2017 to 3.4 percent in 2018 to 1.1 percent last year. With the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the corresponding figure for this year is anticipated to dip to the minus range this year.

Experts warned that a sudden hike in the proportion of real estate value and GDP may widen the socioeconomic gap and aggravate the nation’s financial soundness.

“The fast increase in the ratio of housing prices against GDP has come with the Moon Jae-in government’s intensive restrictions for multiple home owners,” said Sung Tae-yoon, professor of economics at Yonsei University.

“As (housing) supplies continue to fall short of actual demand, aspiring house buyers may turn to high-risk, high-rate loans.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (