Not good businessPresident Moon Jae-in did not show up at the annual New Year’s meeting of businessmen on Wednesday. The event, sponsored by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, invites politicians and government officials as well as foreign envoys for an annual get-together with business leaders.
The sitting president has only missed the event four times since it began in 1962. Last year, former President Park Geun-hye, under legislative impeachment, gave it a pass. Moon may have chosen to skip it in a symbolic show of ceasing political ties with the business community.
Instead the Blue House included 10 business leaders in its annual New Year’s event that invited 246 people from across society. But that could hardly be a place where businessmen can speak frankly to the president. The president’s no-show at a business event could cement his anti-business image. The morale of the corporate community is at the bottom due to a slew of pro-labor measures, including extra taxes and the growing cost of labor.
The presidential and government offices have been pretty obvious in their priorities. Kim Hyun-chul, presidential aide on economic policy, canceled an unofficial dinner with representatives from eight conglomerates. Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry, and energy, called off meetings with CEOs or left before they ended.
Kim Sang-jo, Fair Trade Commission chief, joked he was late to a cabinet meeting because he had to scold chaebol. The scenes add up to hostility toward the business community, which has been threatened with “chaebol reform” ever since Moon was elected.
Governments around the world are busy trying to woo and revive companies. We are going in the opposite direction. The United States, Japan and Europe have cut corporate taxes, but Korea has upped its maximum rate.
The hike in the minimum wage and conversion of irregular workers to permanent employees all heavily burden the corporate sector. It is right to cease collusive ties between politics and business. But policy must not turn anti-business. Without enterprises, we cannot achieve increased income, jobs and evolution to the fourth industrial age.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 5, Page 30
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