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On the same side?

Apr 05,2019
President Moon Jae-in has turned his attention to the recovery of our economy. In a two-hour meeting at the Blue House with former top officials handling the economy, he listened to their straightforward advice on how to get the economy back on track. They urged Moon to change his controversial “income-led growth” policy and accelerate deregulations across the board, including labor flexibility. At a March 28 meeting with foreign business leaders, including Jeffrey Jones, chairman of the board of governors at Amcham Korea, Moon also expressed a determination to revitalize the economy by “removing regulations and reinforcing investment incentives.”

Given the dire condition of our economy, Moon took the right decision to sit down and listen to various views. Production, consumption and investment all turned negative in February with exports — the linchpin of our economy — declining for the fourth consecutive month. Under such circumstances, the Blue House and economic ministers must speak with one voice — but they don’t. Despite the former economic officials’ outspoken words of advice, the Blue House issued a press release in which it said they only advised the president to make up for “some flaws in existing policies.”

More alarming is Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Kim Sang-jo’s steadfast hostility toward companies. His role as head of the antitrust body should be to help them do business by correcting unfair business practices and clearing obstacles to business, not obstructing companies’ growth. Yet the former activist-turned-apparatchik continues demonstrating his deep-rooted antagonism toward the corporate sector.

In a meeting in February to discuss ways to prevent the prosecution from abusing its power when they investigate companies after the FTC lost the right to accuse them of illegitimate practices, he told a lawmaker not to worry too much. His remarks provoked a strong reaction from the lawmaker. Before delivering a speech at an international event last month, Kim prepared a speech in which he compared conglomerates to “social ills.” He changed the wording to “I like chaebol” in the face of public outrage. Shortly after taking office, Kim said he was late for a meeting with the finance minister because he was busy punishing conglomerates.

That wasn’t funny. A country can survive only when it is solidly backed by the competitiveness of its corporate sector. We hope Kim doesn’t really want to throw cold water on his boss’ efforts to rejuvenate the economy.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 5, Page 34