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Daniel Moss

South Korea's Economy Is Tanking. Samsung's On It

The central bank looks frozen as exports slide and growth sputters. The country’s biggest company, meanwhile, has sounded the alarm.

The violins are still playing on the Titanic.

The violins are still playing on the Titanic.

Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg

With President Donald Trump busy threatening tariffs on Mexico, you’d be forgiven for missing the emergency flares from the other side of the Pacific.

South Korea, a bellwether for global trade, has delivered a couple of stunners. Government data this weekend showed exports – which comprise about half the economy – fell for a sixth consecutive month. Shipments dropped 9.4% in May from a year ago, exceeding forecasts of 6.6%. Semiconductor exports plunged by roughly 30%. To China alone, the decline was 20%. So grave is the situation that Samsung Electronics Co., the country’s largest company and biggest exporter, held a meeting with top executives over the weekend to discuss how to deal with the deteriorating business environment.