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Act normally and consume as usual, Hong advises

Feb 13,2020
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki on Wednesday asked Koreans to carry on their lives normally, consuming and going about their business as usual, in order to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on the local economy.

He also said the government is offering 45 billion won ($38 million) of support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to the self-employed in an effort to contain the damage being caused by the outbreak.

Hong said the government will loan 25 billion won to SMEs and another 20 billion won to the self-employed, all at concessionary rates. The special lending will start today.

Hong said the government will also push ahead with the 100 trillion won of investment earlier than planned in order to revitalize the staggering economy.

“We will focus on recovering investment sentiment in Korea as fast as we can,” Hong said.

Of the 25 trillion won dedicated to corporate investment, Hong said 10 trillion won has been already invested in five projects. This includes a petrochemical plant in Ulsan and a shopping complex in Incheon, both of which are scheduled to break ground in the first half of this year.

In the second half, the government will commence the building of a logistics center in Incheon and a material factory in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

The minister expressed concern over Korea’s economy because of the virus outbreak.

“The economic activities are shrinking overall, largely due to the excessive anxiety and fear about the coronavirus,” the minister said. “We request people to carry out normal economic and consumption activities.”

According to a survey by the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise, of 1,096 small business owners in Korea, 67.1 percent of them said their sales have decreased dramatically since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Forty-four percent of the respondents said their sales have dropped by more than 50 percent, while 27.2 percent of the respondents dropped by between 30 to 50 percent.

Hong on Wednesday also thanked Hyundai Motor Group and Samsung, which have opted to support suppliers and partners that have been hit directly and indirectly by the virus.

Hyundai Motor and Samsung have both offered 1 trillion won of financing to its suppliers and partners.

This “reaffirms that Korea can overcome the latest crisis earlier than expected,” Hong said.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]


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