+ A

Moon calls for ‘unprecedented’ response

With economy in free fall, president says no industries are immune
Mar 19,2020
이미지뷰
President Moon Jae-in, second from right, speaks during a Blue House meeting with the heads of Korea’s major business groups and labor unions on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday addressed the deepening economic plight, calling it a “crisis in all industries” despite a slowdown of new confirmed coronavirus infections in the country.

“The growing Covid-19 is threatening us with both quarantines and an economic crisis at once,” Moon said in a speech during a meeting at the Blue House with the business and labor communities. “[While] there have been achievements in quarantine [efforts], with the number of newly confirmed patients shrinking and the number of patients cured increasing, we’re in a situation where we can’t let our guards down.”

Moon stressed the need for international cooperation to limit both the spread of the virus and the economic fallout from the pandemic.

“This is the reason why I have proposed a heads of state video conference of Group of 20 [members],” Moon said. “[The Korean government] is focusing diplomatic efforts on allowing at least businessmen to travel among countries even under entry restrictions due to each country’s quarantine efforts.”

In addition, he requested more cooperation between business and labor leaders.

“With desperation, I am holding this meeting with the business community, labor, small- and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups, and small businesses and export, service, financial and consumer protection groups,” Moon said. Referring Korea’s two largest labor organizations, he added, “I especially thank the labor unions for joining in.”

He said “unprecedented” measures are needed, pointing specifically to the 20 trillion won ($16 billion) measure to boost spending and the most recent 11.7 trillion won supplemental budget.

But Moon said that won’t be enough. The supplementary budget was approved by the National Assembly Tuesday.

The extra budget’s allocation plan was passed during a Wednesday morning cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, but there are already discussions of the need for an additional supplementary budget from the ruling Democratic Party, as the coronavirus impact has rapidly worsened.

He said Covid-19 must be overcome and the efforts to revive the economy must succeed.

“Covid-19 is affecting supply and demand simultaneously,” Moon said. “It is causing a mix of crises in the real economy and finance.”

Moon said the possibility of the economic crisis extending for a long period is likely, as it is affecting other countries as well.

“I hope we could collect our wisdom in overcoming the crisis to give hope to the people,” Moon said.

The president plans to head an emergency economic council that will advise the government to act swiftly to keep the economic situation from further deteriorating.

“We will stabilize the public’s livelihoods, including funding to small- [and medium-sized] businesses as well as job security and increasing the spending capacity of lower-income households,” Moon said.

The president added, “Our people’s potential shines brighter in darkness.”

In addition to top government officials like Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki and business group leaders such as Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Park Yong-maan, Korea Employers Federation Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik and Korea Federation of SMEs Chairman Kim Ki-mun, representatives from the two umbrella labor unions - Federation of Korean Trade Unions and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions - attended the meeting.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]