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Saturday, January 10, 1998 Published at 19:02 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

South Koreans sell jewellery to help economy
image: [ Eight tonnes of gold was collected in the first week ]
Eight tonnes of gold was collected in the first week

Tens of thousands of South Koreans have joined a campaign to collect personal gold jewellery in an effort to bolster the national economy, which is in crisis.

People queued at dozens of collection stations across the country, and government television broadcast live pictures for several hours.

[ image: People queued up at dozens of collection stations]
People queued up at dozens of collection stations
Some people thought twice about handing over precious family heirlooms, but said they wanted to do their bit for the national economy.

During the first week of the campaign, eight tonnes of gold were collected, and the collection drive now appears to be gathering pace.

The gold is being exchanged for bank certificates which can be redeemed for money in a month's time.

[ image: Jewellery is being melted down into gold bars]
Jewellery is being melted down into gold bars
The jewellery is being melted down into gold bars for export to buy US dollars.

The BBC correspondent in Seoul says that many Koreans believe that only collective action to support the financial system will bring about a recovery.

Some economists have warned that the campaign is pushing down world gold prices and will have little practical effect on the country's economic problems.

In London on Friday, spot gold was at a new low of $278.70, the lowest level since June 29, 1979.

South Korea - which has the world's 11th largest economy - came close to national bankruptcy last month, but it narrowly missed defaulting on its foreign debt thanks to help from the International Monetary Fund and foreign banks.

The government has promised wide-ranging reforms and tough restructuring in return for continued international support.

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