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S. Korea Discusses Debt Plan

January 8, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ A meeting between South Korean officials and international bankers ended Thursday without an agreement to postpone payments on $35 billion in short-term Korean debt to help the country through its financial quagmire.

Scores of banks from the United States, Europe and Japan are involved in the effort to roll over until the end of March the maturing debt held by private financial institutions in South Korea.

The meeting at Citicorp is the third since Christmas eve and came as the International Monetary Fund prepared to dole out another $2 billion to the Seoul government from a record $57 billion bailout of South Korea.

South Korea is having difficulty paying its foreign debts because of a plunge in its currency, the won. The country already has secured an agreement with the bankers to roll over until the end of January debt that matured in December.

On Thursday, a delegation from South Korea left the meeting with the international bankers without any new agreement, according to an official at the country’s financial office in New York who asked to remain anonymous.

The South Koreans left the meeting after briefing the bankers about the country’s economy but without discussing a bailout proposal floated by J.P. Morgan, he said.

The J.P. Morgan plan likely would allow foreign institutions to voluntarily swap their short-term debt for longer-term bonds backed by the Seoul government, according to Dow Jones News Service.

The J.P. Morgan debt restructuring proposal would cover all of the estimated $92.2 billion in South Korea debt coming due in 1998, including bank loans, credit lines and other securities, Dow Jones reported.

Another option being considered would give investors willing to take a bet on South Korea’s efforts to resolve its financial and economic problems an opportunity to purchase new bonds for cash.

Officials from J.P. Morgan declined to discuss the specifics of the bank’s proposal and said late Thursday they had no information on the meeting with the South Korea delegation. Citicorp officials did not immediately return telephone calls.

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