The Moon Jae-in government is expected to post the largest increase in government debt in history. The annual growth rate exceeds 40 percent, which is much higher than any other government in the past.
South Korea's sovereign debt stood at 660.20 trillion won (US$546.98 billion) in 2017 when the Moon Jae-in administration took office. The figure is forecast to come to 970 trillion won (US$803.65 billion) in 2022 when President Moon's five-year term ends, according to the government’s national debt management plan between 2019 and 2023, which was submitted to the National Assembly on Sept. 4.
Accordingly, Korea's national debt expected to grow 310.20 trillion won (US$257 billion) in total during the tenure of the present government. It is nearly half of the total national debt in 2017 and the highest figure in history.
During the Lee Myung-bak government when South Korea was too focused on overseas resources development projects amid rising public sector debts, the government debts increased 234 trillion won (US$193.87 billion) from 209 trillion won (US$173.16 billion) in 2008 to 443.10 trillion won (US$367.11 billion) in 2012. The figure rose only 170.40 trillion won (US$141.18 billion) during the Park Geun-hye government from 489.80 trillion won (US$405.80 billion) in 2013 to 660.20 trillion won (US$546.98 billion) in 2017.
In addition, the average annual increase in national debt during the period of the Moon Jae-in government from 2017 to 2022 is forecast to reach some 40 percent. The figure was around 30 percent during the Lee Myung-bak government and the Park Geun-hye government.
The government’s national debt management plan said South Korea’s debt-to-GDP ratio would increase from 37.1 percent this year to 39.8 percent in 2020, 42.1 percent in 2021, 44.2 percent in 2022 and 46.4 percent in 2023. The government’s debt is expected to come to 740.80 trillion won (US$613.75 billion) this year and surpass 1,000 trillion won (US$828.50 billion) for the first time in 2023.