Somehow, I Doubt It
Academics Are Now On Board
In Korea, the Samsung Economic Research Institute is probably the most well-known and highly-regarded economic think tank. A guest post recently appeared on FT’s blog, which suggests that the Yen’s decline has not yet hit Korea. I would totally disagree with this. The disruption is here, the result is global volatility, equity markets are higher than at any point over the past year, the KOSPI is flat at best. On the flip side, there are those that would have borrowed in JPY from Korea, and they will benefit (like plastic surgeons), or real estate investors. To what extent they have benefited is unknown, but it is there.
Easy Path is Over for the Bank of Korea
The conundrum facing the BOK has now shifted to politics. Economically, the BOK has no choice but to lower interest rates, devaluing the Korean Won, to help boost exports. Period. The rest must take a backseat, if it believes that the chaebol cannot compete on the global stage. Real estate may be helped, although only marginally (this blog has said that this boat has sailed for 3 years, and it has proven to be true). Inflation will rise, and that must be met with much better internal distribution of final goods. There are too many intermediate channels before final products meet Korean consumers, whether this is a computer or a Korean pear. It is highly unlikely that the Japanese will ease up on its current program of weakening the Yen. The Japanese had to wait because the Yen carry trade was too strong during the time of the financial crisis, and this is the first window of opportunity. That doesn’t mean that this will work (you can read the many posts that explain how the Japanese economy is in inexorable, structural decline). The net effect? It is back on the BOK, again. As in the U.S., the Korean president is the face of the nation. As in the U.S., the economy depends almost entirely on the central bank, its posturing, and its policies. That is the world in which we live for the forseeable future. In that sense, Korea has arrived as a true companion to other global economic powers.