(LEAD) Inflation falls below 3 pct for first time in 6 months in Jan.

South Korea's inflation fell below 3 percent for the first time in six months in January, showing signs that inflationary pressure is easing, data showed Friday. Consumer prices, a key gauge of inflation, rose 2.8 percent on-year last month, compared with a 3.2 percent increase a month earlier, according to the data from Statistics Korea. It is the first time that the figure fell below the 3 percent level since July last year when the prices gained 2.4 percent. Inflation then rose to 3.4 percent in August and further to 3.7 and 3.8 percent the following months before coming to 3.3 percent in November on high prices of energy and farm produce. The price growth slowed down for the third month in a row in January. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, went up 2.6 percent on-year in January. Prices of daily necessities -- 144 items closely related to people's everyday lives, such as food, clothing and housing -- climbed 3.4 percent on-year this year. Prices of agricultural, lives tock and fishery products surged 8 percent on-year last month. Agricultural products, in particular, logged a 15.4 percent price growth, following a 15.7 percent increase in December. Of major items, prices of apples and tangerines spiked 56.8 percent and 39.8 percent, respectively, in January. Prices of industrial products added 1.8 percent, as rising prices of ice cream, bread and clothing offset the falling prices of petroleum products. Diesel prices shed 11.9 percent on-year, and liquefied petroleum gas for vehicles fell 4.7 percent. Service prices increased 2.6 percent on-year in January, the data showed. Last year, consumer prices advanced 3.6 percent on-year, slowing from a 5.1 percent gain in 2022. Excluding the 2022 figure, last year reported the steepest price growth since 2011. The government has said that inflationary pressure is forecast to ease at a slower pace than earlier expected before reaching its target rate of 2 percent by around the end of 2024. The finance ministry expected this y ear's prices to grow 2.6 percent. Source: Yonhap News Agency