Business leaders stand by Park’s economic plan

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Business leaders stand by Park’s economic plan

Business leaders on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to carry out President Park Geun-hye’s three-year economic innovation campaign.

The heads of leading conglomerates - including Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo; Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin; Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun; KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu; Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon; and Kumho Asiana Chairman Park Sam-koo - attended a New Year’s meeting at Coex in southern Seoul with President Park. The gathering was also attended by leaders of business lobby groups such as Federation of Korean Industries Chairman Huh Chang-soo, who also leads GS Group.

The meeting was organized by the business lobby organization Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industries whose Chairman Park Yong-maan also leads Doosan Group.

The New Year’s meeting is one of the biggest annual events in the business community with about 1,500 attendees, including CEOs of SMEs and influential politicians like Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung and top government officials including Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan and Bank of Korea Gov. Lee Ju-yeol.

For the first time, the president of one of the nation’s two biggest umbrella labor groups, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, also attended the event.

President Park said at the event that this year her three-year economic innovation plan will take full effect and that her administration will create the framework to secure the nation’s growth for the next three decades.

“I hope that the business community will lead the way in helping the Korean economy make a new leap into the future by increasing investment and aggressively expanding to overseas markets,” she said.

In her New Year’s speech in February last year, President Park laid out a three-year economic road map that she said would ensure growth.

The key strategies of the plan were to make Korea’s economic fundamentals robust; to make the economy dynamic and innovative; and to balance exports and domestic sales.

KCCI Chairman Park Yong-maan said in his speech this year that Korea must think about what it should do to become an advanced society while overcoming hurdles that would limit growth such as the aging society, and rising competition in technology.

“Last year we were able to achieve a few worthwhile results including higher economic growth, record-breaking export expansion and current account surplus as the government, companies and the people joined forces amid unfavorable conditions,” Park said. “This year we expect our economy to improve more than last year’s as the global economy is recovering from structural stagnation.

“I fully agree [with President Park] that the year 2015 is a precious golden time and we don’t have much time to in prepare our economy to make a new leap,” he added. “Last year was the time to start economic innovations and next year will be the time when we must make the final adjustments to our plan. So this year is the last chance for us to actually execute economic innovations.”

He added that the business community will seek new opportunities including the convergence of traditional manufacturing and ICT and will commit to creating more open working environments.

While some conglomerates began the year with messages focusing on overcoming difficulties and increasing internal stability, several companies have started the year with apologies.

In his New Year’s message delivered to employees on Monday, Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho apologized to employees and all Koreans for the “nut rage” incident caused by his eldest daughter last month.

Cho actually stopped speaking in the middle of his address, seeming like he was about to burst into tears and KAL President Chi Chang-hoon read out the rest of his message for him.

“On the day that we begin our work, I’m sorry to have to deliver a stern message of self-reflection and self-examination instead of focusing on a bright and hopeful topic,” Cho said at the year-opening ceremony at KAL’s headquarters in Gonghang-dong, western Seoul. “I’m sorry for the unsavory incident that happened last year that led to public criticism [of the company] and left scars in people’s minds as well as to all Hanjin Group employees.”

Dongbu Group Chairman Kim Jun-ki expressed his apologies for the group’s restructuring last year that tore its affiliates apart.

In late 2013, Dongbu, the nation’s 18th-largest conglomerate, announced a 3.3 trillion won ($2.9 billion) cash-raising plan in order to overcome its liquidity crisis.

“Despite our desperate efforts, we suffered our employees getting separated and leaving the workplace in the restructuring process,” Kim said. “I want to deliver my consolation to employees who had to leave Dongbu, as well as their families.”

Dongbu Engineering and Construction and Dongbu LED filed for court receivership last year, while Dongbu Special Steel, Dongbu Power Corporation and Dongbu Express were sold off. Kim acknowledged that the group’s steel, construction and logistics businesses collapsed because of KDB, its main creditor.

BY LEE HO-JEONG, JOO KYUNG-DON [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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