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Radical action is needed

Feb 15,2019
President Moon Jae-in walked into a cabinet meeting Thursday stone-faced. His opening comment reflected what had irritated him. “The government must do its supporting role proactively to encourage companies to innovate as much as they like.” The regulatory sandbox — a new measure enabling companies to try out demo services and products for a certain period of time through waivers in regulations — must not act as an additional barrier to companies, he added. The rebuke has been unusual for the typically genteel president.

Whenever he tours industrial sites, the president turns to government officials to ask them to take extra care and haste in removing regulations that block corporate investment. The regulatory sandbox was finally able to launch last month because of the president’s push. The measure aims to exempt companies trying out new technologies on the market as freely as a child plays in a sandbox. The government made its first review and granted deregulatory additions in four sectors, including hydrogen fuel charging stations and DNA testing for illnesses.

But that does not mean companies can jump right in. Applicants for the regulatory sandbox must go through rigorous legal and other screening processes. The world is making rapid developments on the technological front and companies are racing to make headway. Only in Korea are companies required to line up to get permission for a limited waiver. The president lamented how he had been stunned to learn our companies need permission and have to follow a new deregulatory law for simple new services and products.

Stumbling blocks are everywhere. The president asked the government to study whether any of the 16,000 administrative rules of government offices should be removed. If deregulation does not materialize despite such a stern warning, the president must consider disciplining cabinet ministers and deputy ministers for inaction and restructure the organization and staff. Radical action is needed to achieve results.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 14, Page 30