South Korea is ready to swiftly act to stabilize financial markets if necessary amid escalating military tensions between the United States and Iran, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Wednesday.
Hong made the remarks as volatility in the nation's financial markets rose in the wake of Iran's revenge rocket attacks against U.S.-Iraqi air bases earlier in the morning.
"By closely monitoring markets, the government will cope with the situation in line with contingency plans," Hong told reporters.
Financial authorities are observing movements on the stock and currency markets, Hong said.
In increased risk-off sentiment, South Korea's benchmark KOSPI index dived more than 1.5 percent Wednesday morning and the Korean won dipped 1 percent against the U.S. dollar.
Tensions have been sharply rising since last week's killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, arguably Iran's most powerful commander, by a U.S. air strike.
Global oil prices have soared, raising concerns that a much-awaited recovery in South Korea's exports may be further delayed.
The Middle East accounted for 70 percent of South Korea's imports of crude over the January-November period of 2019, and an estimated 38 percent of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) came from the region.
South Korea, the world's fifth-largest importer of crude oil, has said it will consider releasing oil from its strategic reserves if there is a crisis in securing oil supplies. (Yonhap News)