SEOUL - South Korea received a record high US$20.9 billion (S$29.9 billion) in pledges of foreign direct investment (FDI) during 2015, government data showed on Wednesday, on surging interest from the United States, China and the Middle East.
The total was 10 per cent higher than the record set in 2014, when the FDI pledges stood at US$19.0 billion, according to data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Service sector businesses were the top attraction, according to the ministry, with foreigners pledging US$14.7 billion in 2015, up 31.7 per cent from a year earlier.
Middle East money lay behind a sharp increase in pledges for construction, which totaled $1.6 billion last year.
Pledges for the manufacturing sector, however, suffered a 40.3 per cent decline to US$4.6 billion in 2015, due to low global oil prices and a weak Japanese yen, the ministry said.
In quarterly terms, South Korea saw US$7.6 billion worth of pledges in the fourth quarter, also the highest on record for a three-month period.
Pledges from the U.S. grew 51.8 per cent in 2015 from a year ago to US$5.5 billion while those from China jumped 66.3 per cent over the same period to US$2.0 billion, the data showed.
FDI pledged from the Middle East soared 514.1 per cent to US$13.8 billion, the trade ministry also said, as President Park Geun-hye's state visit to the region in March yielded a surge in investment.
The increased FDI pledges from China were attributed to a bilateral free trade agreement ratified last year.
Meanwhile,FDI pledges from Japan declined in 2015 due to a weakened yen, the ministry said.