South Korea's economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter of last year amid strength in exports and manufacturing, the Bank of Korea said yesterday.
GDP grew 5.5 percent in the three months ended Dec. 31 compared with the same period in 2006 and outpaced the third quarter's 5.2 percent.
Fears over growth prospects in the US as a result of the country's housing meltdown have stoked concerns that economies in Asia could suffer if the world's largest economy falls into recession.
"It's better than expected," Lim Ji-won, senior economist at JP Morgan in Seoul, said of the Bank of Korea figures, though she added that much of the strength was concentrated in the first two months of the quarter and may not accurately reflect the impact of the deteriorating global growth environment.
She said that South Korea has reduced export dependence on the US over the past five years while relying more on demand in neighboring China.
"But it's an open question how far China can go if the US falls into recession," she said.
China, closing in on Germany to be the world's third-largest economy, announced on Thursday that economic growth surged 11.2 percent in the fourth quarter, saying fast growth should continue.
South Korea's economy, the world's 12th-largest, also expanded at a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, the bank said.
That comes to an annualized rate of 6.3 percent, Lim and Citibank economist Oh Suk-tae said.
The economy had grown at an annualized 5.4 percent in the third quarter.
The Bank of Korea does not provide an annualized figure.
Gains in exports and manufacturing were led by industrial machinery, mobile phones, semiconductors and other goods, the bank said.
Samsung Electronics Co and LG Electronics Inc both reported record handset sales in the fourth quarter.
For all of last year, the central bank said that South Korea's economy grew 4.9 percent, slightly below the 5 percent recorded in 2006.
The fourth-quarter performance exceeded expectations.