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South Korea Ready to Take Action to Calm Markets

South Korean Vice Finance Minister Shin Je Yoon
South Korean Vice Finance Minister Shin Je Yoon. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

South Korea is prepared to take “prompt” action to stabilize markets should it be needed as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis deepens, the country’s vice finance minister said.

“We are very experienced in dealing with such market volatilities,” Vice Finance Minister Shin Je Yoon told reporters after an emergency meeting in Seoul on the situation in Greece and Europe. “We’re ready with a comprehensive action plan should the situation worsen.”

Shin met this morning with counterparts from the Bank of Korea and financial regulators a day after the European Central Bank said it will temporarily stop lending to some Greek banks. Downside growth risks remain “significant” in light of a slowdown in the euro area, the Bank of Korea said May 10 as it held interest rates for an 11th meeting.

The finance ministry said in an e-mailed statement after today’s meeting that South Korea’s economic fundamentals are solid and that the country holds an ample amount of foreign currency reserves.

Won Gains

South Korea’s won advanced for the first time in seven days today following the emergency meeting, and the benchmark Kospi rose index rose 0.5 percent as of 11:49 a.m. in Seoul.

The won climbed 0.1 percent to 1,164.25 per dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency touched 1,165.60 yesterday, the weakest level since Jan. 9.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura today also highlighted the risk posed by Europe as Asia’s second-largest economy recovers from last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Japan’s economy expanded by a faster-than-estimated 4.1 percent in the first quarter of the year, the Cabinet Office said in Tokyo.

South Korean Finance Minister Bahk Jae Wan said last week that he’s ready to take action to stabilize financial markets if needed. South Korea will continue policy coordination with major countries such as the U.S., China and Japan if needed for market stability, he said.

While South Korea’s gross domestic product expanded at the fastest pace in a year last quarter, the Bank of Korea reduced its 2012 growth forecast for the country to 3.5 percent from 3.7 percent on April 16 as the outlook for Europe worsened.

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