* For poll details check: reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls?RIC=KROCRT%3DECI
* All 20 economists surveyed see base rate unchanged on Oct
* North Korea and FTA risks need further monitoring
* Majority in poll see a rate hike in first half of 2018
By Dahee Kim and Cynthia Kim
SEOUL, Oct 17 (Reuters) - South Korea's central bank is
expected to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged on
Thursday, as policymakers weigh risks stemming from tensions
surrounding North Korea and the possible renegotiation of
Seoul's trade pact with Washington.
All 20 economists polled by Reuters said they expect the
Bank of Korea (BOK) to keep its policy rate at a
record-low 1.25 percent, where it has been since June 2016.
The economists are unanimous in expecting the BOK will hold
its interest rate for the rest of this year, while a small
majority of 12 see a hike to 1.50 percent during the first half
"Although domestic economy is showing stable improvement,
tightening policy rates in the face of growing downside risks
from the review of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement would
only create uncertainties for the financial market," said Kim
Ji-na, an economist at IBK Securities in Seoul.
"The first half of next year looks most appropriate for the
bank to tighten policy rates," Kim said.
In September, South Korea's exports had double-digit annual
growth for the ninth straight month - the longest such streak
since December 2011 - thanks to higher memory chip and steel
Trade Minister Paik Un-gyu said shipment growth could slow
in the fourth quarter partly due to "worsening global commercial
relations", though he did not elaborate.
Early this month, South Korea indicated it was open to talks
on revising its 2012 trade pact with the U.S., after initial
hiccups that followed President Donald Trump's threat to
terminate the accord unless it was renegotiated.
Trump will be visiting Seoul next month during his first
Renewed concerns sparked by North Korea's sixth nuclear test
in September have not subsided, offering another other reason
for the BOK to keep monetary policy unchanged for now.
Foreign investors' bond holdings decreased by a net 3.7
trillion won ($3.27 billion) in September, while South Korea's
10-year bond yields reached a two-year high of 2.435
percent on Sept. 28.
($1 = 1,130.80 won)
(Reporting by Dahee Kim and Cynthia Kim; Additional reporting
by Heekyong Yang, Yuna Park and Haejin Choi; Editing by Richard
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