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It’s all about the future

Dec 20,2017
There is something wrong if President Moon Jae-in meeting business leaders is big news. The ruling power and businessmen can meet anytime as long as they meet transparently and the press can cover it upon the newsworthiness of the meeting. Yet the news about a meeting being prepared by Moon’s Blue House staff draws special attention because it comes amid escalating business complaints over the pro-labor policies of the new government. Seismic stress can cause an earthquake, and likewise, too much burden on employers can wreck havoc on the economy.

The business sector is heavily stressed by the government’s labor policies. Payroll will shoot up next year from a double-digit spike in the minimum wage, shortened work hours and workers’ increased base salary. Regardless of good intentions, the sudden pressures have become beyond what many companies can handle. This is why many advise that the government should moderate its speed in its push to increase workers’ income.

The government has paid attention to reinforcing social security such as increases in unemployment benefits to set grounds for more flexibility in the labor market and yet made little effort in reforming the labor sector.

The Employment and Labor Ministry places more focus on labor than employment and hardly plays its role as mediator between employers and employees. For instance, it only caused more confusion in the franchise business by ordering Paris Baguette to directly hire bakers and shop staff instead of using agency workers.

The Moon administration also speaks of deregulation, but whether it can make any progress on an issue where previous governments have all failed is still uncertain. Given the little effort it has shown so far, it raises questions if the government has any will to confront too many government regulations.

The president has many things to discuss with business leaders. The presidential office should first respond to the set of recommendations from the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The report starts with the emphasis on fostering the future, not maintaining the status quo. The presidential office must also turn its eyes towards the future. It is better to not have the meeting at all if it is really inviting business leaders with a preset agenda and a menu for the corporate sector to swallow and absorb.