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SEOUL — The U.S. dollar’s value climbed to more than 1,500 South Korean won on Friday, a three-month high that signaled continuing economic woes for both countries, according to local economists.

The weakened won means it’s a good time for Americans in South Korea to spend money and even buy up won for future use, economists said.

Americans in Korea "can enjoy this time," said economist Jang Jae-chul of the Samsung Economic Research Institute.

The won’s slipping value does not mean the dollar is growing stronger, according to Kim Young-sam, an economist at Hana Institute of Finance in Seoul.

In fact, it’s yet another indication of the dollar’s worldwide weakness as President Barack Obama and Congress work to keep a deep recession from getting deeper by offering federal bailout money to banks, automakers and people facing home foreclosures.

But economists warned it’s also a time for all consumers in South Korea to be careful.

Friday’s markets closed with $1 buying 1,506 won, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The won last hit the 1,500 mark on Nov. 24. A year ago the dollar was buying about 950 won.

The drop in won value signals concerns over an annual March deadline when bond markets call on banks to make good on South Korean investments. Some are concerned the country doesn’t have enough cash to handle the deals.

The drop also comes as South Korea posted devastating trade numbers last month. In January, the country’s exports were down by nearly one-third, Yonhap reported at the time. Forty percent of the country’s income depends on selling cars, ships, air conditioners, cell phones and other goods overseas.

The key, both Jang and Kim said, is the United States, whose failing economy has rippled around the world. Much of South Korea’s economy is tied to Europe, which also has seen its currency weaken against the dollar in the past few months.

Japan’s yen has remained stronger, partly because of the country’s place as an economic leader in Asia. But it, too, is suffering, and Japan also reported record export losses in recent weeks.

South Korean economists expect the won to eventually turn around, though they expect it will take the entire year to regain any strength. In an ideal analysis, Kim said, the won might stabilize at 1,100 by the end of this year.


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