The Bank of Korea announced on Thursday that it will keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged, maintaining a cautious stance in light of the numerous risks facing both the domestic economy and global banking-sector turbulence. The decision to hold steady comes as no surprise to most economists who expected the central bank to adopt a wait-and-see approach before making any significant moves.
Bank officials cited multiple factors for their decision, including ongoing concerns over slowing economic growth within South Korea and uncertainty surrounding international financial markets. "We have decided to maintain our current policy rate at 0.50% in consideration of various economic conditions," said Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol during a press conference following the announcement.
In addition to global banking-sector turmoil, other risks mentioned by Governor Lee include rising household debt levels within South Korea and uncertainties related to trade tensions between major economies like China and the United States. Moreover, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country have raised concerns about potential disruptions to economic recovery efforts.
Some experts believe that this conservative approach is necessary given these circumstances. "It's not surprising that they kept rates on hold," said Choi Sung-hoon, senior economist at Shinhan Investment Corp., adding that "with so many external headwinds right now, it would be too risky for them [the Bank]to make any aggressive moves."
However, others argue that decisive action may be needed sooner rather than later should current trends continue or worsen. Dr. Park Hae-jin from Seoul National University's School of Economics expressed concern regarding prolonged low-interest-rate policies: "If we continue with this strategy indefinitely without addressing structural issues like high household debt or an aging population – which are only exacerbated by low-interest rates – then we run into bigger problems down the line."
Many expect further monetary policy adjustments may come in response not just from the Bank of Korea but also from central banks worldwide as they strive to find a balance between supporting economic growth and managing risks related to financial stability.
The next monetary policy review meeting is scheduled for October, during which the Bank of Korea will reassess its stance based on new developments in both domestic and international spheres. Until then, it seems that this cautious approach will continue while the nation's policymakers attempt to navigate an increasingly uncertain global landscape.