* BOK takes policy interest rate below 1% for first time

* BOK says rate cut to minimize risks from coronavirus

* BOK has not made a cut through emergency meeting since 2008

By Cynthia Kim and Joori Roh

SEOUL, March 16 (Reuters) – The Bank of Korea on Monday took the emergency step of cutting the benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points in a rare inter-meeting rate review, taking the policy rate below 1% for the first time in history to limit the fallout from the coronavirus.

The BOK has not made a cut through an emergency policy meeting since October 2008 when Asia’s fourth largest economy was reeling from the global financial crisis, and the base rate , now at 0.75%, is the lowest since the bank adopted the current policy system in 1999.

The bank also lowered borrowing costs for the bank’s cheap loan programs designed to ensure smaller companies can easily and cheaply access credit.

“The monetary policy board assessed that the extent of accommodative monetary policy needed to be further eased to reduce financial market volatilities and curtail impact on growth, inflation,” the BOK said in a statement after the rate decision.

BOK Governor Lee Ju-yeol’s press conference will be live-streamed on YouTube from 0900 GMT.

The move to cut the seven-day repurchase rate comes after the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to near zero on Sunday in another emergency move to provide a potential fillip to the global economy.

Following the Fed’s surprise move, central banks of New Zealand and Japan followed suit and bolstered monetary easing as global central banks dive deep to address the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Onshore financial markets were closed when BOK’s rate decision was announced.

The central bank cut rates in July and October last year. (Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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