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FTC head says income-led policies intact

Adjustments are being made, but he insists there’s been no retreat
Dec 22,2018
Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Kim Sang-jo said Thursday that the government will continue to pursue its flagship income-led growth policy, suggesting that resolve had even strengthened in certain respects despite the recent shift in tone from the administration.

The government “is not transitioning from or giving up on income-led growth,” said the chairman to reporters at an end-year press dinner event near the Sejong government complex. “It is being applied according to the real economic environment. The income-led growth policy should be seen as being strengthened in a sustainable way.”

The comments come as President Moon Jae-in seemed to back down from the government’s signature policy during an expanded meeting of ministers on Monday as he remarked that the government would pursue income-led growth in line with public consensus.

The minimum-wage increase, the signature initiative of the policy, has frequently been cited as a factor weighing on the country’s job market. Bank of Korea Gov. Lee Ju-yeol made comments to that effect recently.

Addressing the issue, the head of the FTC argued that the minimum wage rise is only a single component of a broad policy.

“There is the increase in income such as the minimum wage rise, reduction of living or management costs and increasing disposable income by transfer payments,” explained the chairman. “Considering the market’s capacity, the pace of the minimum wage rise may need to be controlled, but there are other aspects that haven’t been noticed by the public,” argued Kim.

Referring to the recent high-level meeting, Kim explained that the discussion was focused on the economic situation for next year rather than the government’s economic policy direction in its entirety.

“In the current economic situation, it was agreed to place importance in economic vitality while maintaining the five-year economic policy direction,” said Kim.

While affirming the commitment to income-led growth, Kim added that the fair economy, one of the three economic pillars along with income-led growth and reformed growth, will play a different role relative to the other two policy directions next year.

The government decided that the fair economy would drive income-led growth and reformed growth, according to the chairman.

Kim, nicknamed the “chaebol sniper” for his fierce criticism of big business, was measured during his meeting on Friday with Korea Employers Federation (KEF) head Sohn Kyung-shik.

They were set to discuss the FTC’s efforts to revamp the country’s fair-trade laws.

The corporate watchdog chief vowed to cooperate with businesses in pursuing the reforms, approved last month in a presidential cabinet meeting. Changes include the FTC surrendering its exclusive right to file complaints in major price-rigging cases.

“We will listen closely to businesses throughout the process and work toward delivering the message to the National Assembly,” said Kim at the KEF office.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]