South Korea's Growing Household Debt
This is a transcript of top stories presented by China's CCTV Business Channel as produced by CNBC Asia Pacific.
Hello, I'm Saijal Patel and you're watching "Asia Market Daily".
South Korea's struggle with growing household debt is showing no signs of abating. Recent government figures reveal interest payments on household debt hit a record high last year. The figures don't even include personal loans, taken out for business purposes. As SBS-CNBC's Hyunmo Ahn reports, this situation is giving the central bank cause for thought.
Hyunmo Ahn, SBS CNBC, Seoul:
39-year-old office worker Mr. Park bought his first house on mortgage 5 years ago, when the market was booming. He borrowed $150,000. The value of the house has since slumped by $80,000. Yet his monthly interest payments have jumped 20 percent, taking up a significant proportion of his income.
(SOT) Mr Park, Home Buyer:
"I was paying around $530 a month as interest, but now I'm paying $100 more a month. I feel like I'm living in a bank, at a very expensive rent. "
His story is shared by many South Koreans. People who got a housing mortgage loan on the back of low interest rates and booming equities are now finding it increasingly challenging to pay the interest, not to mention the principal. That's one of the reasons why the central bank left rates on hold this month.
(SOT) Sim Chang-Seub, Senior Vice President, Personal Banking Department, Shinhan Bank:
"The biggest concern of our customers is how much higher the interest rates will go up, because most of Korea's mortgage products are based on floating rates."
According to Statistics Korea, 72 percent of households were burdened by debt as of the end of last year, with total household credit standing at $806 billion. The situation worsened in the fourth quarter, when the government eased mortgage rules to try and boost the slumping real estate sector.
Government officials are still discussing whether to meet the initial deadline of March to tighten the rules back up. In the meantime it is looking at various measures to prevent family finances from collapsing and leading to a wider economic crunch.
(SOT) Kim Jong-Chang, Governor of Financial Supervisory Service:
"Under the current system, borrowers make monthly repayments of interest only and not the principal for the grace period, but that's causing an accumulated burden on expiries, so we're thinking of improving the maturity structure, and allowing partial repayment of principal."
With the country caught between a sluggish housing market and snowballing household debt, people are now keenly awaiting measures from the government, expected next month to address the growing household debt burden.
Hyunmo Ahn, SBS CNBC, Seoul.
That wraps up today's "Asia Market Daily".
I'm Saijal Patel from CNBC.
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