Korea Inc. asks for gov’t help

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Korea Inc. asks for gov’t help

Korean business leaders met on Monday with Sung Yun-mo, minister of trade, industry and energy, and asked the government for new policies to help the country’s struggling manufacturers.

A month earlier, Minister Sung promised Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, to listen to business leaders at a future gathering.

“We hope that the government comes up with new policies that could drive economic growth based on innovation,” said Park during the Monday meeting. “It would be nice if Korea could formulate something like manufacturing revival policies in other advanced economies or China’s ‘Made in China 2025.’”

He was referring to Trump administration’s policies to defend manufacturers in the United States and China’s blueprint for modernizing its manufacturing sector through state support.

“Even though some indices including those related to exports seem in good shape, the majority of other industries show negative performances and polarization is continuing,” he said. “Structural issues hampering growth such as closed regulatory environments and low productivity at smaller companies persist.”

According to Statistics Korea Sunday, the average operational rate for factories in Korea in the first nine months of this year was 72.8 percent, the lowest rate since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. The figure was the same a year earlier, meaning manufacturers in Korea have been struggling for two consecutive years.

Analysts have concluded that the days of healthy growth are over and the Korean economy is headed for medium- and long-term decline, the chairman said.

Business leaders in attendance backed up Park’s comments.

Exports are concentrated on semiconductors and the share of smaller companies to total exports has been going down. There should be a new set of measures to revitalize major manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding, automobiles and steel, they said.

Chairman Park stressed that the government should ease regulatory barriers.

“Each of the previous administrations made a lot of efforts, but we hear from businesses that they can barely feel the effect of deregulation,” he said. “It is hoped that the government will lift all regulations except for those tied to safety and human life.”

Minister Sung said he would sincerely perform the role of a supporter of businesses so they could continue investing and generating jobs.

Also at the meeting were Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Yoon Boo-keun; Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun; Hyundai Motor Group President Chung Jin-haeng; LG Chem Vice Chairman Park Jin-soo; SeAH Steel Chairman Lee Soon-hyung; and Busan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Huh Yong-do.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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