Sunday, April 19, 2009

South Koreans fastest in dispelling economic pessimism

Pessimistic views on the local economy faded away in Korea at the fastest speed than in any other country in the world, a global survey showed yesterday

According to Gallup Korea, which released the Worldwide Independent Network's two-part survey on the economic crisis, the percentage of respondents with a negative view that "the economic situation will be worse in the next three months" shrank to 44 percent from 70 percent in Korea. A total of 20,325 people in 25 countries participated in the survey, conducted from January to March.

The decrease in Korea was the largest, followed by the United Kingdom, Iceland, Japan and Canada.

In contrast, India and Spain saw the number of people with a negative economic outlook increase the most. While only 14 percent of respondents in India had a pessimistic view in January, the figure more than doubled to 33 percent in March. In Spain, the percentage of people with a negative view went up from 51 percent to 61 percent during the same period.

Korea also showed the fastest turnaround in income expectations for the next 12 months.

The percentage of respondents with a pessimistic view that "their family income will decrease in the next 12 months" almost halved to 28 percent in March from 53 percent in January. The decline in the figure was the largest in Korea, followed by the United Kingdom with a 6 percentage point fall and Spain with a 4 percentage point fall.

The WIN consists of 25 independent polling firms in the world. For the WIN's latest survey on the financial crisis and views on the economy, Gallup Korea said it conducted telephone interviews with 814 Koreans.

Some of Koreans' change in sentiment comes as economic indicators show mixed signals of a recovery and a deepening slump.

The Industrial Production Index has started to recover from minus 25.5 in January to minus 10.3 in February and the service-sector production swung from a 1.1 percent on-year contraction in January to 0.1 percent on-year growth in February, according to the Finance Ministry.

The trade surplus has widened to a record surplus of $4.28 billion in March, the Korea Customs Service said. Financial market jitters have abated with a stronger won and higher KOSPI.

However, the economy lost 195,000 jobs in March from a year ago, the biggest job loss since March 1999. The number of unemployed reached 952,000, nearing 1 million for the first time in three years since February 2006.

"The number of jobless would actually exceed 1 million in April," Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun warned at a recent forum in Seoul.

"The current economic situation is at a phase in which positive and negative signs are mixed."


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