“The appreciating won and slowing economic growth in the US and other developed nations remain as negative factors,” the ministry said in a statement.
The shrinking FDI plans underline China's emergence as a magnet for foreign investment. The investment climate in South Korea has also deteriorated as a result of increasing scrutiny of foreign capital and new regulations against hostile takeovers. South Korea has welcomed greenfield investment by foreign investors but there is increasingly hostile public sentiment towards foreign buyers.
South Korea’s outgoing government plans to revise foreign investment regulations to make exclusions on national security grounds more specific and provide stronger protection for major Korean companies targeted by overseas investors.
Pledged FDI in the manufacturing sector slumped 36.7 per cent last year to $2.69bn but rose by 14.9 per cent to $7.61bn in the service sector. Despite the US subprime loan crisis, planned FDI from the US rose 37.2 per cent to $2.34bn but FDI commitments from Japan dropped by 53 per cent to $990m and those from the European Union fell 13 per cent to $4.33bn.
There are some hopes that foreign investment could rebound this year as the next government is expected to adopt more investor-friendly policies. President-elect Lee Myung-bak, who takes office on February 25, has pledged to boost economic growth by attracting more foreign investment and encouraging corporate investment. But here, as in so many other cases, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.