SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean consumers purchased far fewer nonessential items in the first quarter than normal due to economic uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Sunday.
The combined essential spending came to 84.81 trillion won (US$71 billion) in the January-March period, accounting for 40.56 percent of total household expenditures, according to the data released by the Bank of Korea.
It is the first time that the proportion of essential spending in total household expenditures surpassed 40 percent since the fourth quarter of 1999, when the corresponding figure came to 40.29 percent.
Essential spending includes groceries, utility bills, rent and health services.
The development is the latest reminder that South Korean consumers closed their wallets for nonessential goods and services, such as entertainment, as they are grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.