Worried South Koreans formed long queues outside the country’s suspended savings banks Thursday, as they sought to withdraw their savings.
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Hundreds rushed to take out some of their money, the first time they’ve been allowed to do so since Sunday when regulators suspended seven banks.
At this Tomato Savings Branch south of Seoul, as many as 800 irate and fearful customers showed up, with some, like Gum Choon-Jeom, in line the night before.
“I hadn’t been able to withdraw (my money) due to the incident (the bank suspension), so I came to withdraw part of my savings. I stayed overnight so that I could get my money back first. It was hard, but I did it for the money.”
Fifty-seven-year-old Kim Young-Hee was able to take out some savings, but is worried about the rest…
“I feel free and easy because I got a part of my savings after a long wait. Feel like flying. I was so worried and suffered from the incident. I’ll see what will happen with rest of my savings.”
Tomato and six other small savings banks attracted customers by paying higher interest than mainstream banks.
But the banks are poorly capitalized and heavily exposed to the ailing construction sector.
Concerns about the security of deposits spread to other small savings banks, as well, with about $36 million in deposits withdrawn from 91 savings banks by noon.
But the pace slowed as depositors successfully withdrew their money from the seven suspended banks.
Affected customers can recover provisional deposits of up to 20 million Korean won each – about $17,400 – until November.
The crisis has already claimed the job of one of President Lee Myung-Bak’s aides, and has caused ripples through the ruling Grand National Party, which faces parliamentary and presidential elections nest year.
Bottom line: Hundreds of fearful South Koreans rush to withdraw their savings from the country’s suspended savings banks.