BOK board members call for more time before additional rate hike

SEOUL-- Members of the central bank's rate-setting board voiced concerns over heightened uncertainties over economic recovery and called for more time to analyze the effect of an interest rate hike in August before seeking additional measures to tame inflation and household debt, minutes from the latest policy meeting showed Tuesday.

On Oct. 12, the seven-member board of the Bank of Korea (BOK) held its key policy rate unchanged at 0.75 percent, but the central bank hinted at an additional rate hike in November following a 0.25 percentage point increase in August. Two of the members voiced the need for a 0.25 parentage rate hike.

"The domestic economy is expected to stay on a solid growth track going forward but a high level of both upward and downward uncertainties remains in the way," a board member said.

"It is desirable to take additional policies while looking at how global inflation and uncertainties linked with currency tends in major countries will play out along with the effect of the previous rate hike and recovery directions down the road," the member added.

Another member said it is appropriate for the central bank to maintain the stance of "steady adjustment" of its accommodative monetary policy, saying that it requires more time to analyze the effect of the August rate hike and the impact of recent external uncertainties before discussing an additional rate increase.

Those who favored an interest rate hike in October voiced concerns over global supply chain disruptions and its negative impact on consumption, saying that they could cause "overshooting" in prices of some products and apply upward pressure on inflation.

"It is more important than anything else to keep global consumption recovery alive … but more important is to keep inflationary expectations at bay," a member said.

South Korea's economy is showing signs of rebounding from the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic driven by strong exports, and observers hope that the recovery will get more traction thanks to eased curbs under the "living with COVID-19" scheme meant to bring the country gradually back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

But Asia's fourth-largest economy is faced with various downward risks, including inflation and rising household debt apparently caused by a long period of a record-low interest rate.

The country's consumer prices grew at the fastest clip in almost a decade in October due to the base effect of last year and soaring energy prices. The BOK said that inflation will likely stay much over 2 percent "for the time being."

South Korea's economy grew 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, slowing down from a 0.8 percent gain tallied in the previous quarter, according to the BOK.

Source: Yonhap News Agency