Park’s new economic team is still on sidelines

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Park’s new economic team is still on sidelines

Although Korea got a new administration yesterday, the country’s economic “control tower” remains unmanned due to delays in confirmation of minister nominees.

As President Park Geun-hye said in her inaugural speech yesterday, revival of the economy is one of her key tasks.

“The new administration will usher in a new era of hope premised on a revitalizing economy, the happiness of our people and the blossoming of our culture,” Park said. “Economic revitalization is going to be propelled by a creative economy and economic democratization.”

Whether Park will be able to establish the so-called “creative economy” beyond rudimentary expansion of existing markets seems questionable considering that even the first step toward that goal has been a hurdle.

Kim Jeong-hun, nominee for minister of future planning and science, and Hyun Oh-seok, nominee for minister of strategy and finance and others named by Park face mounting suspicions about their assets and family backgrounds.

In addition, the legislation on Park’s government reorganization has generated fierce opposition from the Democratic United Party in the National Assembly and put confirmation hearings on the back burner.

As a result, Park will hold her first meeting on state affairs today with officials who worked for former President Lee Myung-bak.

At the Sejong Government Complex in South Chungcheong, about 5,500 government employees are on the job even though the offices of major branches overseeing the country’s economy and business affairs will remain vacant at least until mid-March.

Kim Dong-soo, Fair Trade Commission chairman, stepped down yesterday, but no successor has been named.

“We are wasting time at this critical moment when global economic uncertainties persist as the confirmation process is being delayed,” said an official surnamed Kim at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

According to Hyundai Research Institute, the economy is undergoing unprecedented slow growth, in stark contrast to the Kim Young-sam administration from 1993 through 1998 when GDP growth stood at 7.4 percent. The figure fell to 4.8 percent during the Kim Dae-jung administration and to 4.3 percent under Roh Moo-hyun. For the past five years, the economy grew 2.9 percent on average.

The business community yesterday urged the new president to make revitalizing the economy her top priority. The Federation of Korean Industries, Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Korea Employers Federation issued calls for increased spending and stimulus measures.

“The Korean economy is suffering downside risks in exports, mounting household debt and a depressed real estate market,” said the Federation of Korean Industries. “It is time to boost the growth potential of the economy.”

Further delay beginning in confirming the new economic policy team could slow growth even more, experts say.

By Song Su-hyun []
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