South Korean Joblessness Climbs to Record High
South Korean unemployment has practically doubled over the past year, and analysts say worker protests are likely to become the main threat to economic stability.
The government’s National Statistical Office said Friday that unemployment rose to a record high of 1.76 million in January, from 1.67 million the previous month and 934,000 a year ago.
The number means that the jobless rate before seasonal adjustment rose to a historic high of 8.5% in the month from 7.9% in December and 4.5% a year earlier.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in January, however, fell to 7.7% from 7.9% in December and 8.1% in November in line with an economic upturn.
But analysts said the economy was recovering quite slowly and the prospects for job seekers looked bleak.
“The high jobless rate of 7% to 8% will continue for at least five years,” said Lee Jeong-ja, the head of research at HSBC Securities.
About 4,000 workers from the country’s metal industry clashed with riot police in Seoul over the weekend at a rally called to protest large-scale layoffs. Witnesses said dozens of workers and police guards were injured.
At the same time about 2,000 activists from civic groups gathered in front of a government building in central Seoul. They said the corporate restructuring the government has urged on industry only aggravated the country’s joblessness.
“Workers’ protests over job security will likely be the main threat to economic stability this year,” said Gong Byung-ho, president of the Korea Centre for Free Enterprise.
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