South Korea's industrial output has fallen for the second consecutive month. The operating rate of manufacturers, a driving force behind the nation's growth, has also dropped to a level consistent with an economic crisis, casting a shadow over the South Korean economy.
Even with the discount season, department store sales grew a mere one percent to mark the lowest earnings recorded among this year's sale events.
[Soundbite] Kim Do-yeon(Seoul Resident) : "With the trouble facing the nation, it is hard to open my purse. I am scared and hesitant."
With inventories piled up, factories can no longer continue to produce. Machines put up for sale by closed factories remain unsold for several months.
[Soundbite] Park Young-sik(Owner of a Used Machine Store) : "I worked even during the IMF economic crisis.It is worse than the IMF era. I feel so."
The operating rate of manufacturers stood at 70.3 percent in October, down 1.3 percentage points from the previous month. It is also the lowest level in seven years and five months. The nation's overall industrial output also fell for the second consecutive month. Large corporations' sluggish performance has sent greater shocks to small and mid-sized companies.
[Soundbite] Small and Medium-size Company Official(Voice modified) : "The machinery and steel sectors are almost dead…Even existing equipment is not used for production."
As a result, nearby restaurants are faced with difficulties, in turn.
Lee Ju-yeon (Restaurant Owner): Factories don't work overtime. Workers arefinished at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. and go back home.Restaurants are in trouble, as employees don't come to eat.
On top of this, the Choi Soon-sil scandal has aggravated the situation, creating extreme jitters among economic players. The government has eventually launched efforts to resolve the problems.
Yoo Il-ho (Deputy Prime Minister for Economy (Ministerial Meeting on Economy)): Don't be discouraged with excessive jitters. I hopethat the people will continue normal economic activities.
But it is proving difficult to predict how long the situation will continue.