South Koreans' borrowing from financial firms grew by the most in more than four years in the second quarter mainly due to lenders' efforts to expand household loans, the central bank said Friday.
Borrowing by Korean households and nonprofit organizations grew by 20.9 trillion won (US$18.9 billion) to 728.5 trillion won in the April-June period, sharply up from a 7.2 trillion won gain three months earlier, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).
The second-quarter data marked the largest expansion since the 29.4 trillion won growth tallied in the fourth quarter of 2006, it added.
"Last quarter, the growth of depository institutions' lending to individuals accelerated on the back of banks' efforts to expand (home) loans," Kim Sung-hwan, head of the BOK's flow of funds team, said at a press conference.
"In return, companies' money borrowing from financial institutions sharply eased."
The data includes debt held by agents like small business owners, but the upside trend of money borrowing points to growing concerns about households' debt.
South Korea is grappling with snowballing household debt as high indebtedness is feared to hurt fragile domestic demand, thereby crimping economic growth.
The government unveiled a set of steps to curb household debt in June by tightening banks' loan-to-deposit ratios and mending banks' lending practices. But despite such efforts, home loans extended their growth as people rushed to non-bank institutions to borrow.
As of end-June, household credit including lending and credit purchases reached 876.3 trillion won.
Banks' excessive moves to extend home loans caused funds to flow less to the corporate sector, the BOK said.
In the second quarter, local companies' funds borrowed from banks grew by 3 trillion won, sharply down from 15.9 trillion won growth in the first quarter.