Moon continues charm offensive, meets small businesses

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Moon continues charm offensive, meets small businesses

President Moon Jae-in continued his charm offensive aimed at the business community, a campaign underway since the beginning of the year as he works to restore confidence amid growing global economic uncertainty.

President Moon invited 145 heads of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to the Blue House on Monday.

The meeting was attended by top Blue House aides and government officials, including Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki; Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo; Science and ICT Minister You Young-min; Financial Services Commission Chairman Choi Jong-ku and Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo.

The president stressed the important role that small businesses play in the economy.

“SMEs have to do well as more than 80 percent of employment, which is the most urgent issue today, is at small businesses,” Moon said. “SMEs and start-ups are the center of the people-centered economy that our government desires,” Moon said.

He also stressed that in order to achieve an inclusive economy, small businesses and conglomerates must find ways of profiting together.

President Moon reaffirmed his support for businesses.

“The government will give full support so you can feel the difference,” he said. This year “more than 4 trillion won [$3.57 billion] of venture funds will be invested in SMEs, and the 20 trillion won R&D budget, an all-time record, will mostly be committed to SME technology developments.”

One of the biggest changes this year is the creation of regulation-free special zones, where new technologies will be tested and launched.

“This year, we will create two smart industrial complexes while expanding the number of smart factories to 4,000,” Moon said.

This would mark the beginning of the government’s efforts to create 30,000 smart factories in 10 smart industrial complexes by 2020 and transform half of SMEs to smart companies.

President Moon said his administration has been focusing on creating an ecosystem for SMEs and start-ups that would drive a new growth engine and generate jobs. Planned efforts include addressing unfair business practices and providing customized support by growth stages for start-ups.

“We have created a system through government financial institutions to help [start-ups] make a comeback even when failing,” President Moon said.

“Last year, more than 100,000 new companies were created, an all-time record, while venture investment amounted to 3.4 trillion won,” the president said. “Return on venture investment increased 60 percent compared to the previous year, while more than 600 venture companies had revenues above 100 billion won.”

He said last year five new companies with a corporate value above 1 trillion won were added, while the government estimates that three additional companies will join the club.

Moon said last year both the number of SMEs exporting and the value of good exported by SMEs hit record levels. He also said while the government has been doing its best for SMEs, the current support may not be enough.

“SMEs and start-up companies face difficulties in management, while the uncertainty of the future remains,” he noted. “The government is mustering the means to help with finance, development and marketing,” Moon said.

The president said this meeting was just the beginning as he plans to gather other economic participants, including conglomerates, small store owners and labor unions.

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