By Kang Seung-woo
The Korea Land and Housing Corp., or LH, topped the indebtedness list among public enterprises last year.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the state-run housing company borrowed 14.66 trillion won ($13.72 billion) in 2010 — the largest amount among 27 government-owned enterprises.
Its total debts went up to 125.5 trillion won.
In 2010, the Korea Student Aid Foundation (KOSAF), the provider of loans for students, and the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), borrowed 8.35 trillion won and 8.25 trillion won, respectively, making them second and third on the list.
KEPCO¡¯s annual borrowings remained at 4.31 trillion won in 2007 but its freezing of utility charges caused its borrowings to go up a dramatic 91.4 percent last year.
Borrowings by all 286 public institutions reached 70.76 trillion won ($66.23 billion) in 2010, up 12.2 percent from 63.78 trillion won the previous year, with those of 27 state-run companies standing at 51.59 trillion won, up 104.5 percent from 25.22 trillion won in 2007.
Their borrowings remained at 28.34 trillion won in 2007, but large-scale national projects, including the four-river refurbishment plan, catapulted them to the current level.
Among other high-profile public firms, the Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC)¡¯s borrowings totaled 6.57 trillion won last year, while the Korea Water Resources Corp. (K-water) and the Korea Gas Corp. (KOGAS) borrowed 4.72 and 4.32 trillion won, respectively.
Due to the soaring borrowings, the total debt of public institutions grew from 249.3 trillion won to 386.6 trillion won during the cited period.
The growing debt in the public sector is casting a dark cloud over the nation¡¯s worsening fiscal soundness.
Last month, the Bank of Korea announced debts owed by the government, individuals and companies in Korea reached a record high in 2010, as their interest-bearing debts reached 2,586 trillion won at the end of last year, up 7.4 percent from 2,408 trillion won the previous year. The debts are about 2.2 times the country¡¯s nominal gross domestic product, which reached 1,172 trillion won last year.
By sector, individuals¡¯ debts reached 937.2 trillion won at the end of last year, up 8.9 percent from a year ago, while the government has debts totaling 367 trillion won, with public firms owing 254.7 trillion won, the central bank said.
Private companies had the largest amount of debt at 1,281 trillion won.