South Korea’s consumer prices increased at a slower pace in February, with the growth rate staying in the 1% range for the fourth straight month, a government report showed Monday. The country’s consumer prices index rose 1.4% on-year in February, compared with a 1.5% on-year advance in the previous month, according to the report by Statistics Korea. From a month earlier, it grew 0.3% The on-year figure marked the fourth straight month that the price growth has remained in the 1% range since November. The core inflation, which excludes volatile oil and food prices, rose 1.3% on-year in February, slightly higher than the 1.2% tallied in the previous month, the report showed. The report confirms that South Korea’s inflation has remained in a stable mode over the past year after soaring to about 4% throughout 2011. The government has placed its top priority on stabilizing prices amid worries that inflation could hurt the overall economy, South Korean /Yonhap/ news agency reported today. The so-called “livelihood price” index that measures the costs of key daily necessities inched up 0.8% on-year in February, unchanged from the previous month. The index has stayed below 1% for three straight months. Prices of fresh food, including fruits and vegetables, however, jumped 7.4% last month, though its growth rate slowed from the previous month’s 9.3%, according to the report. Factory product prices, meanwhile, rose 0.7% over the same period, slowing from the previous month’s 1.3% gain. Oil-related product prices fell 1.9% following a 0.6% decline in January, the report showed. Electricity, tap water and heating gas costs jumped 4.2% last month, indicating that high utility bills remain a drag on consumer prices. The government is keeping an eye on price movements of daily necessities and public service fees, among other things, as they are feared to disrupt the current stable price trend. In a related move, the government will unload its stockpile of agricultural goods in the market, while expanding imports of farm goods to better cope with any supply disruptions. The country’s antitrust watchdog is also expected to join such efforts by toughening its crackdown on price rigging and other steps to drive up product prices without justifiable reasons. For 2012, the country’s consumer prices rose 2.2% from a year earlier, which remained between the central bank’s 2-4% inflation target band set for 2010-2012. Its annual core inflation gained 1.6%.