South Korea has little chance of seeing its sovereign credit rating lowered, the nation's top economic policymaker said Wednesday, shrugging off concerns being raised following recent debt downgrades of advanced countries.
"There is little chance for our nation's ratings to be lowered," Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told reporters after attending a conference in Seoul.
He made the comment when asked about his views on the decision by Moody's Investors Service to cut Japan's debt rating by one notch from Aa2 to Aa3 citing its debt and deficits. Standard & Poor's also lowered the U.S. government's AAA rating earlier this month.
Moody's has kept South Korea's credit rating at A1, the fifth-highest status, since upgrading it to the current level in April last year. Its delegation visited Korea in May to assess its latest economic and financial situation.
Bahk said that the downgrade on Japan had been expected, dismissing worries that the decision could have a significant impact on South Korean financial markets.
South Korea's stock markets started higher on Wednesday, with its benchmark index gaining ground and the won also opening up against the U.S. dollar. The markets, however, turned down in the afternoon as the KOSPI closed 1.23 percent lower than the previous day and the won lost 0.39 percent against the dollar.
Analysts were still confident that Japan's downgrade will have a "limited" impact here unlike when stocks and currency markets suffered tumultuous trading following the fall in debt rating of the U.S.
"The downgrade of U.S. debt sent huge shock waves given that it was the first of its kind for the country in seven decades and the U.S. economy's symbolic status in the world," said Lee Jong-woo, head of research at Solomon Investment & Securities.
Some expressed concerns that Japan's ratings adjustment could prompt ratings agencies to make similar moves for other major economies such as France, Germany and Britain, which could weigh heavily on investor sentiment.
Regarding the currency market, they agreed that Japan's downgrade will not have a significant impact here but some worried that it could affect Korean exporters by spreading the perception that the yen is not a safe bet anymore and will eventually cause its value to decline.
A weak yen negatively affects South Korean exporters by diminishing their price competitiveness in overseas markets against Japanese goods.
Meanwhile, during the conference, Bahk emphasized the importance of global cooperation in controlling capital flows, which is regarded as a key element in financial stability at home and abroad.
South Korea has been pushing to keep a lid on excessive capital flows as it has a vivid memory of the abrupt exodus of foreign money from the country that caused the financial crisis in 1997-98.
"There are efforts being made to distinguish sound capital from speculative capital, while attempts are also being made to control capital flows," he said. "A new principle regarding capital flows should be set through harmonious policy coordination among individual nations."