Economy under par? Play less golf

SEOUL Thu Aug 21, 2008 2:12pm EDT

Anthony Kim of the U.S. makes a par putt on the 17th green during the second round of Ballantine's Championship golf tournament at the Pinx Golf Club in Seogwipo on Jeju Island March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

Anthony Kim of the U.S. makes a par putt on the 17th green during the second round of Ballantine's Championship golf tournament at the Pinx Golf Club in Seogwipo on Jeju Island March 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has told officials to give up golf for the moment because it sends the wrong signal just as the economy has hit the rough.

"Golf is not bad but ... as prices are unstable and the economic situation is not getting better, President Lee thinks they need to consider public sentiment," Yonhap news agency quoted a presidential Blue House official as saying.

Lee, a keen tennis player, asked officials to put their clubs away at least in the run-up to the major local Chuseok holiday in mid-September.

His government, which began battling low popularity ratings almost as soon as it took office in February, has had to abandon ambitious economic growth targets for this year because of a global downturn, while fast-rising inflation has triggered mounting wage demands from the country's unionized labor force.

Golf is hugely popular in South Korea but the high cost sees many players fly off to cheaper parts of Asia for a game.

An average club near the capital charges $250,000 to $500,000 to join and members can expect to pay $250 per guest for a weekend round of golf.

(Reporting by Park Ju-min; Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)

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