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Moon’s contradiction

July 12,2018
President Moon Jae-in met with Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong while attending the opening ceremony of the company’s smartphone factory in India during his state visit. The Blue House brushed off any meaning of the president’s meeting with Lee, who is on probation and awaiting the Supreme Court ruling on his bribery case. But the business sector nevertheless paid close attention to their rendezvous.

In their brief private meeting, Moon asked the de facto head of the country’s top conglomerate to contribute in increasing investment and hiring. Lee said he would work harder. The government strives to bolster the economy and employment. It is natural for the government to make such a request to the country’s top company. The president’s comment raised interest because the government’s policies so far have all been harsh on large companies.

The cutback in workweek hours and hike in minimum wage all reflected labor demands. The business sector has been asking for deregulation to spur investment and new growth, but the government has been less attentive to the woes of employers. Big businesses have come under tougher regulations and pressure over ownership reform and business practices from all possible authorities — the Fair Trade Commission and Financial Services Commission as well as police and prosecutors. How can the government possibly expect the business sector to increase investment?

Data points to deteriorating economic conditions. Exports that buttressed the economy lost steam amid an intensifying trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Production, consumption and investment have all weakened. Innovation cannot be expected due to regulatory barriers. If the government does not respect the business sector, no president can make companies increase investment and hiring.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 11, Page 30