[EDITORIALS]‘Trivial’? We beg to differ

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[EDITORIALS]‘Trivial’? We beg to differ

In his first regular briefing with the press, Kwon O-kyu, the new finance minister and deputy prime minister, said he would not ease restrictions on building or expanding factories in the Seoul metropolitan area. He said that if one looks at the big picture in terms of improving the corporate environment, the restrictions in the Seoul metropolitan area are only minor problems. He also said that the government has already given permits for factories in such areas as Tangjeong and Paju, which are near Seoul.
“If there’s something that hasn’t been done, tell me,” he said. This is like saying that the government has granted all requests and is asking, “What’s the problem?”
His words reflect the pride and stubbornness that is characteristic of this administration.
The Federation of Korean Industries said that information technology firms and other companies are experiencing difficulties in attracting investment due to restrictions in the Seoul metropolitan area, and that it was disappointed that the new minister dismissed it as a minor problem.
The government’s position is that restrictions in the Seoul metropolitan area are required for balanced regional development, but it is a fact that companies are not moving to rural areas ― they’re leaving Korea to go to countries like China and Vietnam. This is because companies need the regional competitiveness that the metropolitan area offers. According to a survey that the Korea Tripartite Commission released early this year, 37 percent of companies that said they plan to move their factories abroad said they would do so due to restrictions in the metropolitan region. Those restrictions are also making it hard to attract foreign capital.
Seeing that Mr. Kwon regards as “trivial” matters that companies consider serious, he has either not been correctly informed of the difficulties companies are experiencing or he is trying to ignore the problem.
It seems like it was only yesterday that Mr. Kwon himself emphasized that he would ease restrictions to make a country better for businesses. During his inauguration, he said he would improve restrictions in a “revolutionary manner to increase investment” and that he would create a corporate environment on a par with that of developed countries. But now that companies are actually asking for those restrictions to be eased, he says it cannot be done. What a quick turnaround!
How will he increase investment after banning changes to core restrictions? Businesses must invest for jobs to be created.
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