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Seoul all out to rejoin MSCI's developed-market review list

All News 09:28 June 14, 2016

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is sparing no effort to put its stock market back on global index provider MSCI's review list of developed market index candidates, which could help lure more foreign investment, financial officials said Tuesday.

The Geneva-based MSCI, or Morgan Stanley Capital International, is scheduled to announce its review results for candidates on Wednesday. It categorizes 78 countries into three benchmark indices -- developed, emerging and frontier markets.

According to the officials, a government delegation led by the director of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) recently visited the MSCI's Hong Kong office, requesting South Korea's inclusion in the review list.

The delegation explained a series of South Korean measures aimed at boosting convenience for foreign investment in Asia's fourth-largest economy, they said.

South Korea has been on the list of emerging market indices since 2009. From 2008 to 2014, Seoul advanced to the review list stage each year but failed to obtain developed market status due mainly to its inability to satisfy a series of requirements.

The MSCI has long cited South Korea's identification-related regulations for foreign investors as a major hurdle to its accession to the top index group. Last year, it removed South Korea from the review list.

In January, Seoul said it will overhaul the identification system for foreign investors for the first time in 24 years. To that end, it introduced an omnibus account system starting in May, which is deemed an efficient way to gather customer trading activities into a single account and help offshore investors cut costs.

Starting in August, South Korea will extend the trading hours of the stock and foreign-exchange markets by 30 minutes. The stock and foreign-exchange markets currently open at 9:00 a.m. and close at 3:00 p.m. It is also moving to open a won-yuan exchange market in Shanghai to promote convenience for offshore traders.

The MSCI has asked Seoul to open an offshore market where foreigners can exchange the won for other currencies or vice versa around the clock. But Seoul has balked at the request as the 24-hour exchange market could increase volatility of the Korean currency.

Market analysts said it remains unclear whether the MSCI will again include South Korea in its review list of developed market candidates, given its demand for the offshore won market.

A Seoul official said "the government sees a 50-50 chance of South Korea getting back on the review list."

Once South Korea is put back on the review list, the MSCI will determine whether to upgrade Seoul in June next year. Even if it decides on an upgrade, the actual inclusion will take place after 2018.

Currently, the International Monetary Fund, Britain's FTSE, S&P and Dow Jones consider South Korea a developed market, but the MSCI still categorizes Seoul as an emerging market.

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