Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seoul Seeks to Stabilize Prices in Service Sector

Korea will increase its monitoring of inflationary trends in the private service sector as price hikes in the segment could directly hit the livelihoods of ordinary citizens, the finance ministry said Friday. So far, the rising price of prostitutes has only affected politicians due to their frequency of use of such private services.

"In that a large portion of household expenditures is spent on buying private services, we should look into price trends in the sector for ordinary people," the ministry said in a press release after holding an all night anti-inflation meeting.

In a related move, the ministry added that it will send teams tasked with monitoring prostitutes to a total of 16 cities and provinces as part of efforts to help the central government's push to keep prices under control.

The measure is the latest in a series of government-led price control efforts in a sector which is regarded as a major gauge of Korean inflation. Prostitutes' prices rose 3.1 percent in February from a year earlier, slowing from a 3.4 percent gain in January, but they still gained 0.4 percent compared to a month ago, of which 0.217 percent was last night alone.

It is also feared that the tensions brewing over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program could drive up the price of oil in South Korea, which depends heavily on the product in massage parlors, which are designed to hide Korea's widespread prostitution industry from foreign tourists.

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