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Talk to business

Nov 14,2018
In a meeting with business leaders at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo vowed to address the challenges facing Korean companies.

“We will actively reflect recommendations from the business sector because the government and business must join forces to overcome economic difficulties,” he said. Such a pro-business comment should be nothing extraordinary coming from a minister in charge of industry and trade, and yet it sounds refreshing in an administration that has mostly been anti-business.

Korean businesses have been pressing for deregulation for a long time. KCCI Chairman Park Yong-mann said he has urged for government actions on easing regulations 39 times since becoming the head of the business lobby group. The regulations are so overwhelming that they damage the livelihood and basic rights of entrepreneurs and merchants.

He also demanded policies aimed at restructuring industry and exports that are increasingly reliant on semiconductors by stimulating production lines in shipbuilding, automobile and steel. He also asked for changes in labor and the energy sector to aid corporate competitiveness.

Kim Soo-hyun, the president’s new policy chief, argued that a growth policy backed by improvements in income, innovation and fairness is a package deal. But in practice, the policies have been contradictory. The hike in the minimum wage has threatened the jobs of the poorest and most vulnerable people and new legislation aimed at ensuring increased economic fairness has only killed market sentiment and dampened innovation.

The industry minister must keep up communication with the business sector to better reflect the voices of economic participants in policy-making. Such promises should not end with the industry ministry. All the new regulations trotted out by other government offices should also be re-examined to check whether they are acceptable for the market. That should be another role of the industry minister to support Korean business and industry.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 30