Goldman, Sachs & Co. has reached an agreement to buy a 17% stake in South Korea's Kookmin Bank for $500 million, the two institutions announced Monday.

The move, which makes Goldman the fourth major foreign investor in South Korea's banking system, is expected to give the New York-based investment bank entry to Korea's booming merger and acquisition arena and the purchase and sale of distressed Korean bank loans and other assets.

Germany's Commerzbank AG, London-based HSBC Holdings PLC, and Newbridge Capital Ltd., a U.S. investment partnership, have all either bought or reached agreements to buy major stakes in South Korean Banks.

Two other South Korean banks, Housing and Commercial Bank and Hanvit Bank, also plan to raise additional capital by selling off minority stakes to foreign banks.

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