Hyun regrets his failure to fully revive economy

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Hyun regrets his failure to fully revive economy

Hyun Oh-seok, outgoing deputy prime minister and finance minister, expressed regret yesterday over failing to make the economic recovery trickle down to the general public.

At his last press conference in Sejong as finance minister, Hyun said he took pride in his achievements over the past 15 months, during which he said he helped the economy start growing again. But said he was disappointed that he couldn’t expand the recovery to reach working-class people.

“The economic recovery accelerated as the GDP grew 3.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, up from 1.2 percent in the same period last year,” Hyun said. “But I feel regret because the recovery couldn’t reach the working class and was insufficient for the people to feel it.”

Hyun deserves credit for his work, but in his wake he has also left a wide sense of frustration.

The 3.9 percent GDP growth in the first quarter was largely due to the expansion of exports and a significant increase in construction investment. But private consumption grew a mere 0.3 percent, halved from the fourth quarter of 2013. In April and May, due to the impact of the Sewol ferry tragedy, the Korean economy faltered again as consumers stopped buying and many retailers’ sales plunged.

Hyun is scheduled to step down from his post after the National Assembly confirms Choi Kyung-hwan as his successor.

“In order to spur the recovery, I focused on a mix of policies,” Hyun said. “I thought it was important to combine a variety of policies - fiscal, deregulation, investment promotion and housing market normalization.”

Hyun added that Choi, who has worked in a number of positions at the government, National Assembly and in the media, is the right man for the position.

“Choi is a great man in many aspects,” Hyun said. “I leave him some homework, but I am reassured by his placement.”

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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