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Consumer prices stay stagnant for 5th month

South Korea’s consumer price growth remained below the 1 percent level for the fifth consecutive month in May, due to a decline in price of petroleum products and increased welfare costs, government data showed Tuesday.

The latest figures, which fell far below the Bank of Korea’s consumer price target of 2 percent, are once again seen as a signal that the central bank may consider a policy rate cut within the year.


The consumer price index stood at 105.05 in May, up 0.7 percent from a year earlier, marking the lowest on-year rise for any May since 2015, according to Statistics Korea.

The on-year increase rate has remained in the zero percent range so far this year, with 0.8 percent in January, 0.5 percent in February, 0.4 percent in March and 0.6 percent in April.

“Consumer prices stayed low as the price of petroleum products declined, the domestic market remained sluggish and free education expanded,” said Kim Yun-sung, director of the statistics division.

The price of agricultural, livestock and fisheries products saw a 1.2 percent on-year rise, while petroleum products marked 1.7 percent decline during the same period.

Core inflation -- excluding the price-sensitive agricultural and petroleum products -- climbed 0.8 percent from a year earlier.

But delivering greater downward impact on overall prices was the decline in education-related costs, backed by the government’s expanded welfare programs.

The price of school uniforms fell 44.3 percent for boys and 41.9 percent for girls, data showed. The price of school meals also fell 41.3 percent from a year earlier.

Service prices climbed 0.8 percent from a year earlier, marking the same on-year increase rate as in April and also the lowest since December 1999, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

By Bae Hyun-jung (