When George Soros Talks...

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SEOUL: An encouraging word from George Soros sent South Korean stocks up nearly 3 percent Monday, after the weekend's news that the Midas-like financier was bargain-shopping in Seoul.

Meeting with President-elect Kim Dae-jung Sunday, Soros must have sounded like the IMF, urging Kim to "faithfully and swiftly" adhere to stringent reform prescriptions. He also dished out plenty of advice on how South Korea can pull itself out of its current crisis and promised to send an investment research team after he returns to New York.

Investors sent Seoul's main index up 11 points to 396.49. And Soros, who knows his influence over foreign markets is something like Alan Greenspan's in the U.S., sounds intent on helping South Korea to its economic feet. "Korea has severe problems but it can overcome them in a relatively reasonable period of time, and it can be done by radical restructuring of its economy," he said at a news conference Monday. If Soros can sell that reasoning to the rest of the world, the noted philanthropist may wind up handing Seoul a happy new year.