BEIJING - More than a decade after its last major economic crisis, East Asia is spooked by the prospect of a new global financial storm coming its way.

Some are putting a lock on their wallets, shunning the fancy banquets that are a tradition in Asia, cutting back on taxis, even buying gold to hedge against calamity.

As fear spreads, it is stoking memories of the 1997 Asian contagion, when currencies collapsed, confidence evaporated and citizens scrambled to keep their savings from vanishing.

"I really see the behavior all over again," said Roger Groebli, head of financial analysis for LGT Capital Management's office in Singapore. "They are canceling holidays. They stop consuming. They really are scared."

While their leaders plead for a vote of confidence, some Asians have psychologically prepared themselves for economic turmoil, bracing for the hard times they fear lie ahead.

"Many people in Korea are worried about the worldwide financial shocks," President Lee Myung-bak said while presiding Tuesday over a weekly Cabinet meeting, according to the quasi-official Yonhap news agency. "At a time like this, the public should have confidence in the government and muster their strength and wisdom."

Some analysts say South Koreans have reason for concern. Their currency, the won, touched a seven-year low during the day. It has tumbled 30 percent so far this year.

"Korea has a big property bubble, and it's going to burst. Its industry is losing steam," said Andy Xie, a Shanghai-based analyst and former chief Asian economist for Morgan Stanley.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that consumers and corporations are slowing spending in the face of a potential downturn. The wealthy are among those putting off buying.

In Hong Kong, which historically has more Rolls-Royce cars per capita than anywhere else on Earth, the local dealership has no one shopping.

"I asked our sales staff if any potential deals might be close to materializing. Usually, there is at least something cooking, but there was nothing," Leon Roy, the general manager, told the South China Morning Post.

Japan may prove to be an island of hope for the region as investors turn their interest toward its currency, the yen, which is appreciating steadily with the nation's rock-bottom interest rates.

Still, the Bank of Japan warned Tuesday of "substantial uncertainties" in the global outlook, and large corporations have begun to tighten their belts.

"Any major Japanese group is cutting back so fast and sending out e-mails saying [everything] from taxi rides to restaurant meals are off," said Martin Schulz, senior economist at Tokyo's Fujitsu Research Institute.

Xie said consumer and corporate reaction to news of global financial turmoil is understandable given the pillar-shaking economic meltdown that hit East Asia in 1997 and 1998.

Those were traumatic years for Asia, Xie said. "A whole generation was affected by it," he said. "People are buying gold, and they are keeping it under their beds."