SEOUL-- The size of assets under management by South Korea's state pension fund surpassed the 600 trillion won (US$536.2 billion) mark for the first time ever, the government said Sunday.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the total value of funds controlled by the National Pension Service (NPS) reached 601 trillion won as of Monday, making it the world's third-largest in terms of size after Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund and the Government Pension Fund of Norway.

The NPS has over 20 million subscribers and is responsible for the management of various investment portfolios that are used to generate earnings so it can pay pensioners down the line.

The size of assets started at 530 billion won in 1998 with numbers surpassing 100 trillion won in 2003.

Compared to 558 trillion won in fund reserves checked at end 2016, the size of assets grew 7.71 percent in just seven months.

Its earnings rate on investment this year as of early last week stood at 23.5 percent.

The NPS and the ministry attributed the sharp increase in assets and earnings rate to the bull stock market where the main KOSPI has soared 19.67 percent coming into this year.

The pension service had decided in late May to increase its holdings of local stocks that further helped increase the overall size of assets under its management.

Of assets controlled by the NPS, 48.3 percent are invested in various domestic bonds, with shares in the local bourse accounting for 21.1 percent of the total. The service has 16.6 percent of its funds invested in overseas stocks and so-called alternative investments equal to 10.3 percent of funds in controls as well as some foreign bond holdings.

The NPS, meanwhile, is moving to fill the vacancy in its top management that has remained empty for seven months. Its chief investment officer (CIO) Kang Myoun-wook also stepped down last week, which can affect key decision-making processes. The process, however, can take some time since the positions are open to all qualified people and require a thorough screening process.

Source: Yonhap News Agency