Lee: Commodity price increases must be blocked

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Lee: Commodity price increases must be blocked

President Lee Myung-bak instructed the government yesterday to take pre-emptive measures to block commodity prices in domestic markets from rising higher than international prices.

South Korea has been struggling to fight increases in the price of vegetables and other basic commodities amid skyrocketing prices for napa cabbage, the main ingredient of kimchi.

Because of an unusually long stretch of bad weather and a poor harvest, the government has slashed tariffs on cabbage from China in an emergency step. Kimchi, a spicy fermented side dish, is eaten with almost all Korean meals.

“There is no reason for low-income people to purchase items inevitable to daily life at higher prices than international prices,” Lee said in a cabinet meeting, according to his spokesperson Kim Hee-jung.

He urged government officials to scrutinize the prices of 52 basic commodities, closely monitored as indicators of inflation, and map out fundamental measures.

“If prices are higher than those at international markets, [the government] should adjust supply and lower prices,” Lee was quoted as saying.

The president reiterated that the G-20 Summit, slated for Nov. 11-12, will play a crucial role in the world’s efforts for constant economic recovery and sustainable growth.

“The world is in a difficult situation because of an exchange-rate war and other problems,” Lee said. “The global economy will wither if we fail to draw international cooperation at the Seoul meeting this time.”

Meanwhile, the cabinet approved a fresh long-term strategy for expanding employment.

Under the scheme, titled “National Employment Strategy 2020 for the Harmony of Growth, Employment and Welfare,” the government aims to increase the employment rate, which means the proportion of people with jobs between age 15 and 64, from 62.9 percent last year to 70 percent by 2020.

The government plans to modify the Non-Regular Workers Act to ease restrictions on the two-year limit to the employment by companies of irregular workers.

The legislation, designed to protect the rights of temporary workers, stipulates that nonregular workers who work at the same company for longer than two years need to be transferred to regular employee status or let go.

But the government is seeking to scrap the two-year limit for newly created companies in a bid to enhance resilience in the labor market.

“We will check the accomplishment of the long-term strategy every quarter,” said Minister of Employment and Labor Bahk Jae-wan.

He said the ministry is willing to accept the advice of the Economic and Social Development Commission to narrow differences over the plan.

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