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RoK's GDP growth at 11-year high in 2021 as exports boom
  • | Reuters | January 25, 2022 10:46 AM
The Republic of Korea's economy expanded at the fastest pace in 11 years in 2021 thanks to a jump in exports and construction activity, tempering declines in capital investment and a slow recovery in the coronavirus-hit service sectors.

Bank of Korea data on Tuesday showed gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 4.0% in 2021, as demand for exports soared.

Bank of Korea data on Tuesday showed gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 4.0% in 2021, as demand for exports soared.

The BoK expects GDP to grow 3.0% this year as Asia's fourth-largest economy benefits from strength in chips exports and increased public spending, though record local COVID-19 cases this week are a threat to consumption.

"Global demand for our chips is resilient and strong exports will keep (the RoK's) growth momentum solid," said Hwang Sang-pil, head of BoK's Economics Statistics department.

"People are getting used to social distancing curbs. Activity was slower in December but the hit is smaller than before."

From the third quarter, the economy expanded a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in the October-December period, beating the 0.9% expansion tipped in a Reuters poll and up from a 0.3% rise in the third quarter.

Growth in annual terms in the fourth quarter was at 4.1%, also beating a median forecast of 3.7% in the poll.

The BoK on Jan. 14 raised its benchmark interest rate to pre-pandemic levels and signalled it may tighten further as growth and inflationary pressures remain strong.

The Republic of Korea's economy has had a sharp albeit uneven bounce from the coronavirus slump in 2020 with exports expanding at their fastest annual pace in 11 years last year while the consumption recovery has been patchy due to social distancing curbs.

A recent Reuters poll of 20 economists forecast the economy to grow 2.9% this year, below the 3.0% projected by the BoK.

Tuesday's data showed exports were the main driver of growth in the fourth quarter, jumping 4.3% on-quarter.

Growth was also helped by private consumption and construction investment, which expanded 1.7% and 2.9%, respectively.

The service sector grew 1.3% in the fourth quarter, stronger than the third quarter but slower than the second.

Capital investment declined 0.6% on-quarter, following a 2.4% drop in the preceding three months.

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