Service sector falling behind

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Service sector falling behind

The government is considering easing restrictions allowing only licensed professionals to open businesses in the legal, medical and accounting fields.

Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun said, “We will try to ease access to fields of professional practice to make the industries bigger and more advanced through greater competition.”

The finance ministry will hold a hearing next week and announce a set of measures to advance the service market early in December.

The government has finally gotten around to taking action after announcing second-stage plans to deregulate the service market in September last year.

We have repeatedly called for a more competitive service market. The sector is a gold mine for jobs, yet it has been lagging behind international competition.

Relatively low-value-added wholesale and consumer sales industries such as food and accommodations have been growing, whereas the high-value-added sectors like medical, legal and accounting have stagnated. To hone the service sector, high-value-added fields must grow.

But instead, our market is heading backward.

These sectors are in urgent need of incentives to turn competitive. This need not be such a hard task. More capital must flow into the fields, and local physicians and lawyers must compete more vigorously. The key lies in deregulation.

Those without licenses should be encouraged to invest in the fields. More eligible doctors and lawyers should be allowed to open businesses.

Common market practices like investment and opening businesses have been restricted in the licensed practice market due to opposition from existing players.

The legal, medical and accounting fields are special industries with public duties. Deregulation in these professions will require discretion in view of their influence on society. But the goal should be eased restriction and greater market access.

We need to take that big step if we want to nurture multinational players in these fields who can defend our market from eventual inroads by foreign service firms.

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