On again, off again

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Try not to blink you may miss the latest development in the saga unfolding between the International Monetary Fund and South Korea.

The country's finance minister, Lim Chang-yuel, announced early Monday that a deal had been reached for an IMF bailout of between $50 and $60 billion, about three times the country's original target. But later in the day, IMF managing director Michel Camdessus threw cold water on that one, noting that nothing is final until both sides ink an agreement. The Wall Street Journal reports that the parties are still at odds over Seoul's gross domestic product growth rate for next year.

Meanwhile, Asian finance officials may try to relieve some economic pressure in the region and sidestep IMF restrictions by establishing their own multibillion-dollar bailout fund. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) fund would cooperate with the IMF and would have strict borrowing requirements of its own, but would not be accountable to the IMF. The fund, which would supplement international loans, has been opposed by the U.S. which wants to keep the IMF in control of dousing the regions fiscal brush fires.

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