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Country Forecast South Korea December 2017 Updater

Country Forecast South Korea December 2017 Updater

  • December 2017
  • ID: 358989
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

Summary

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  • Moon Jae-in of the liberal Minjoo Party won the presidential election in May 2017. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects him to serve out his full term, which is constitutionally limited to five years.
  • With politics remaining heavily polarised, the next parliamentary election, in 2020, will prove challenging for Minjoo to increase its seat-count, and will most likely still leave no party in the National Assembly (parliament) with the majority required to pass laws unilaterally. Nevertheless, with a fairly able bureaucracy, policy implementation will remain efficient.
  • Security ties between South Korea and the US will remain strong, owing to North Korea's continued ramping-up of its nuclear capabilities. Moon Jae-in's efforts to engage the North Korean regime will stoke tensions with the US president, Donald Trump, in the short term, but will offer an avenue to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula later in the forecast period. It will remain difficult for South Korea to regard China as a reliable security partner.
  • The Moon Jae-in administration will pursue an ambitious demand-driven economic agenda through increased government spending and redistributive policies. Despite strong momentum to curb the role in the economy of the chaebol (family-run conglomerates), and renewed support for small and medium-sized enterprises, we expect the dominance of these enterprises to continue over the forecast period.
  • The Bank of Korea (South Korea's central bank) will seek to pursue a modest monetary policy tightening cycle in 2018-22, but this will be interrupted to help the domestic economy to weather the impact of economic slowdown in China and the US in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
  • Real GDP will grow by an annual average of 2.7% in 2018-22. In the absence of a significant rebalancing away from exports and towards domestic demand, the economy will remain hostage to weakness in global trade. Increasing indebtedness among households, along with subdued wage growth in the dominant manufacturing sector, will act to constrain private consumption.
  • The current-account balance will stay in the black even as exports remain under pressure owing to a slowdown in the economies of China and the US. South Korea will also face greater competition on certain key export items from peers in the region, including China.


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