Korea's debt is close to a staggering W500 trillion with annual interest payments alone expected to surpass W20 trillion this year (US$1=W1,073).
According to data the Ministry of Strategy and Finance submitted to the National Assembly on Monday, government debt stands at W480.3 trillion with interest amounting to W20.3 trillion. That boils down to a per-capita debt burden of W404,000 given a population of 50.21 million.
Interest payments stood at W11.4 trillion in 2006 but began to spiral after the global financial crisis. In 2009, they stood at W14.4 trillion, rising to W19.1 trillion last year.
Interest now accounts for 7.7 percent of the total budget. That means W77 out of every W1,000 of state spending is used to finance debt.
The rise in interest stems from a huge increase in government debt as the country struggled out of the global crisis. Public debt stood at W309 trillion in 2008, but rose to W359 trillion the following year as Korea borrowed money to cushion the impact of the crisis.
It reached W443 trillion in 2012 and is expected to total W480 trillion this year since the government issued bonds to finance a supplementary budget. At this rate, it is expected to surpass W500 trillion in 2015.