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S. Korea's ratio of exports to GDP hits new record last year
SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- The weight of exports in the South Korean economy hit an all-time high in the first nine months of last year, central bank data showed Tuesday, underscoring concerns that Asia's fourth-largest economy could be vulnerable to external shocks.

   Exports of goods and services amounted to 538.5 trillion won (US$506 billion) in the January-September period, or 57.3 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the data by the Bank of Korea.

   The reading was higher than 56.2 percent tallied for all of 2011 and the highest since the central bank began compiling related data in 1970, and South Korea's exports accounted for 13.2 percent of its GDP.

   Exports have fueled the country's economy and helped transform South Korea into Asia's fourth-largest economy from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   Still, South Korea's export-driven economy leaves the country exposed to external risks or fluctuations in global markets.

   South Korea's exports of goods and services amounted to 529.6 trillion won in 2009, down from 544.1 trillion in 2008 when the global financial crisis hit the country, according to the central bank data.

   Jun Min-kyu, an economist at Korea Investment & Securities Co. called on the government to make efforts to boost domestic demand and small and medium enterprises by reducing the country's heavy dependence on exports.

   Lee Seung-hoon, an economist at Samsung Securities, also said South Korea needs to boost domestic demand during periods of low economic growth.

   Global investment banks have estimated the South Korean economy will likely expand 3 percent this year, mainly fueled by a rebound in Chinese demand, according to the Korea Center for International Finance. The outlook trend is in line with the revised figures by the Korean government.

   For decades, South Korea's exports have been led by conglomerates, known as chaebol in Korean.

   Samsung Group, South Korea's largest conglomerate whose businesses range from electronics to insurance, alone accounts for about 28 percent of South Korea's total exports.

   President-elect Park Geun-hye has recently pledged to change the economy that relies heavily on the exports of large conglomerates into one in which both big and small firms coexist.

   entropy@yna.co.kr
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