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Sunday, 14 June 2015

KorEconomics 101 (한국경제학개론), Part IX: NongHyup Bank - Agro Bank of Korea

The National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 농업협동조합/農業協同組合/Nong-eop Hyeopdong Johap) or simply known as NongHyup (농협/農協/Nonghyeop) is a Korean organisation which manages agricultural farming, livestock commodity, supplies, marketing and other activities related to Korean agricultural activity. The headquarters of NongHyup is located at 16 Saemunan Avenue/Saemunanno, Chungjeongno 1-ga 75-1 beonji, Seoul Jung-gu.

It was established by the special law in 1961, with an objective of enhancing the social and economic status of farmers and increasing the productivity of the agricultural industry as well as the income of agricultural households. It has promoted many industries and many business. Korean agricultural and livestock products are famous for quality, nutrition and flavor because they are produced from the blessed and fertile land around the Korean peninsula.

NongHyup operates a number of retail grocery stores called "NongHyup Hanaromart" that sell fresh produce, fruit, beef, pork, and other food products. According to its own figures, it provides about 50% of rural food marketing in South Korea. NongHyup is the sister organization to Suhyup (the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives), a similar cooperative federation. The federation was ranked fourth among the 300 largest cooperative organizations in the world.

Member cooperatives are democratically controlled, autonomous business groups, funded by member subscriptions rather than government financial investment. They, in turn, fund the NongHyup through institutional subscriptions. Cooperatives are governed by directly elected presidents, who, in turn, elect a chairman of the federation.

Member cooperatives allow non-farmers, who have invested a certain amount of capital into the cooperative, to open tax-free bank accounts and access some services. However, whereas member farmers are defined as the genuine owners or stakeholders, associate members can only obtain limited access to or influence over the cooperative.

As of December 2011, the number of the member farmers was 2,446,836 and the number of the associate members was 15,262,611. In 2010, these figures were 2,447,765 and 14,483,532, respectively, indicating a decline in member farmers of 929, and an increase in associate members of 779,079.

Recent international agreements have affected South Korean agriculture and by extension the effectiveness of the NongHyup. These include the European Union–South Korea Free Trade Agreement, implemented in July 2011, and the Free trade agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea, which took effect on 15 March 2012. Proposed agreements include the China–South Korea Free Trade Agreement, the official public hearing of which was held at the World Trade Center Seoul on 24 February 2012.

Concerns over free trade agreements are reflected in the uncertain trends in Korean agricultural production. Total production by the agricultural sector in 2011 was KRW 44.62 trillion, up by 7.1% from 2010 (KRW 41.68 trillion) and including an 8.5% increase in the livestock and dairy sector. Conversely, the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI) expects the total production of agricultural industries to decrease by 1.1% in 2012.

NongHyup Bank (농협은행/農協銀行/Nonghyeop Eunhaeng) provides specialized agricultural and commercial credit and banking services in South Korea. It is a subsidiary of NongHyup Financial Group Inc. The bank founded in 2 March 2012, when the NongHyup restructured its operations, establishing financial and marketing holding companies through the revised Agricultural Cooperative Law and a resolution of the board of directors on 2 February 2012. The new NongHyup performs as the center of the member cooperatives, governing the Extension and Support Unit, the Agricultural and Supply Business Unit, the Livestock Marketing and Supply Unit and the Cooperative Banking Unit. 

The company’s deposit products include demand, time, savings, installment, and foreign currency deposits, as well as certificates of deposit. Its loan portfolio comprises mortgage and home equity, and other retail loans; working capital loans, facilities loans, and collective housing loans for large corporate, and small and medium-sized enterprise customers; agricultural policy loans funded by the government; and credit card products. The company also offers foreign exchange, ATM, bill paying, payroll, check-cashing, currency exchange, and wire fund transfer services, as well as Internet, phone, and mobile banking services. 

In addition, NongHyup Bank engages in securities investment and trading, derivatives trading, investment banking, and trust account management businesses. As of June 30, 2014, it operated through 1,192 branches, as well as through 4,592 branches operated by member co-operatives.