© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and South Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho meet at Lotte Hotel, in Seoul, South Korea July 19, 2022. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
By Cynthia Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) -The United States and South Korea agreed on Saturday to implement liquidity facilities to stabilise financial markets if needed, Korea’s finance ministry said after a teleconference between finance chiefs of the two countries.
The won is near its lowest level since March 2009, and has weakened 17% against the surging U.S. dollar so far in 2022, amid a broad sell-off in emerging market currencies as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises interest rates.
“The two countries are ready to work closely together to implement liquidity facilities when necessary, such as when financial instability is aggravated by the spread of (a) liquidity crunch in major economies, including Korea,” the ministry said in a statement after the call between the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and South Korea finance minister Choo Kyung-ho.
The agreement reached on Saturday repeats the U.S. statement made when Yellen last visited Seoul in July, amid growing calls for the Bank of Korea to arrange a currency swap with the Federal Reserve to stabilise the dollar-won market.
However, the statement released on Saturday did not elaborate on whether the facilities that may be deployed referred to a currency swap and South Korea’s finance ministry did not give further details.
A $60-billion currency swap pact set up in March 2020 between the central banks of the two countries as an emergency step to stabilise markets expired at the end of last year.
Such a swap would allow South Korea to borrow a certain amount of U.S. dollars for a pre-set period and rate, in exchange for won, so as to resolve difficulties in dollar liquidity.
To help protect one of the world’s worst performing currencies, South Korean authorities has recently arranged a $10 billion currency swap program with the country’s state-run pension fund, a tool that allows the fund to finance its overseas investment with the central bank’s FX reserves, instead of buying dollars in the spot market.