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S. Korea growth in 2018 at 2.7%, slowest in 6 years

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SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea’s GDP growth slowed to its weakest in six years at 2.7 percent in 2018, the central bank said Tuesday, as President Moon Jae-in’s ratings fall amid concerns over the health of the world’s 11th-largest economy.

Public discontent over the sluggish economy, especially on relatively high youth unemployment, has dragged Moon’s approval ratings below 50 percent, down from the 80s he was scoring in May after his first summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Critics say Moon’s flagship economic policy of ”income-led growth” — featuring steep increases in the minimum wage — is hurting those it is intended to help by raising employment costs.

A lack of progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington has also left many unsatisfied with the Moon government.

The 2018 growth figure was down 0.4 percentage points from the previous year, the central Bank of Korea said, and the weakest since the 2.3 percent recorded in 2012.

South Korea’s export-driven economy has been pressured by slowing growth in China, its biggest trading partner, where expansion slipped to a 28-year low last year.

The South has also been squeezed by trade tensions between the US and the Asian giant, the world’s top two economies.

But GDP expanded 3.1 percent year-on-year in the last quarter, the central bank said, led by government spending and construction and infrastructure investment.

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