A RUSH of foreign orders to Korean shipbuilders in recent months has raised expectations that its shipbuilding industry will see a revival of the 1991 business boom this year. But industry and government officials share the view that it is still too early to make such an upbeat prediction. The nation's shipbuilders began to feel a business slowdown last year after they posted a record high of backlog orders in the preceding years. They were forced to revise employees' work schedules, with some facilities being left idle as new orders dropped off sharply. Contrary to shipbuilding industry officials' earlier forecast that prospects for this year or next were not bright, orders have sharply increased so far this year. Figures released by the Korea Shipowners' Association (KSA) showed that, in the first four months of the year, Korea received orders to build 42 ships with a combined capacity of 2.3 million gross tonnes, a more than 600 per cent jump over the same period last year. The abrupt rise in shipbuilding orders was partly attributed to the appreciation of the yen, which made Japanese-built ships more expensive than those constructed in Korea. The KSA posted 1.79 million gross tonnes of orders during the January-March period, compared to Japan's 1.51 million gross tonnes. Japanese shipping lines changed their orders from Japan to Korea, apparently because or rising ship prices, the official said. Nippon Yusen Kaisha ordered an 82,000-ton bulk carrier with Samsung Heavy Industries Co, while Showa Line signed a contract for a 77,000-ton bulk carrier with Hyundai Heavy Industries Co.