Homeplus Addresses Debt Rollover Concerns, Ensures StabilityKITA Chief Warns of U.S. Trade Protectionism Against South Korean ExportsSouth Korea’s Wage Earners See 6% Increase in Monthly Salary in 2022

SEOUL - Homeplus Co., a major discount store chain in South Korea, has responded to concerns over its financial stability following a recent debt rollover agreement with Meritz Securities Co. The company was due to repay a debt of 300 billion won (US$220 million) by the end of December but negotiated a six-month extension, which was granted by the brokerage. This development raised questions about Homeplus's ability to settle another loan amounting to 500 billion won due in October, owed to various local financial institutions.

According to Yonhap News Agency, "We have (tentatively) agreed with Meritz and the (unidentified) financial institutions on the rollover of the loans valued at a combined 800 billion won," a Homeplus spokesperson stated, though further details were not provided. The chain, acquired by private equity firm MBK Partners from British retailer Tesco Plc in 2015 for 7.2 trillion won, has reportedly repaid nearly 4 trillion won of the 4.3 trillion-won loan included in the acquisition deal.

As of February, Homeplus operates 131 stores nationwide, a decrease from over 140 in 2015. The company reported an operating loss of 260.2 billion won for the fiscal year ending in February 2022, an improvement from the previous year's loss of 133.5 billion won. However, ongoing operational challenges led Korea Investors Service to downgrade Homeplus's credit rating last February, citing continued losses and competitive disadvantages. The company is awaiting a new credit evaluation by a local rating firm this week.

SEOUL - The newly appointed head of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), Yoon Jin-shik, has issued a warning to South Korean industries about the potential for increased trade protectionism by the United States.

According to Yonhap News Agency, there is a growing concern that the U.S. may expand import regulations against South Korean exports, particularly in light of recent increases in trade volumes to America. The meeting also saw the resolution to appoint Yoon, a former industry minister, as the successor to the former Chairman, Koo Ja-yeol.

Yoon highlighted the deteriorating export environment for South Korea, attributing it to major countries, including the U.S., adopting industry policies focused on national interests and the strengthening of protectionist trade measures. He announced that KITA would take proactive steps to mitigate these risks by expanding and strengthening its overseas branch organizations, particularly its office in Washington. Yoon brings a wealth of experience to his new role, having served in various key economic positions within the government, including director general of international finance at the finance ministry, presidential secretary for economic affairs, and head of the Korea Customs Service.

SEOUL - Statistics Korea released data on Tuesday showing a 6 percent increase in the average monthly salary of wage earners in South Korea for the year 2022, driven by significant income growth in the construction and transportation sectors. Wage earners took home an average of 3.53 million won (US$2,650) per month in December 2022, an increase from the 3.33 million won recorded a year earlier. The median income bracket saw their average salary rise to 2.67 million won, marking a 6.9 percent increase from the previous year.

According to Yonhap News Agency, The report further detailed that employees at large conglomerates experienced a 4.9 percent increase in their monthly salary, reaching 5.91 million won, while those at small and mid-sized firms saw a 7.2 percent increase to 2.86 million won. The financial and insurance sector reported the highest monthly salary at 7.57 million won, up 4.3 percent on the year. Construction workers and those in the transportation sector witnessed significant salary increases of 12.9 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively, with monthly wages reaching 3.01 million won and 3.23 million won.

Additionally, the salary gap between male and female wage earners was highlighted, with male employees earning 4.14 million won in December 2022, a 6.5 percent increase from the previous year, and female employees earning 2.71 million won, up 5.7 percent, making male wages 1.5 times higher than those of their female counterparts.

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