Pay heed to the pleasThe business community raised its hopes for an improved work environment when President Moon Jae-in hosted an expanded meeting and debate for business leaders of all sizes at the Blue House. But hopes were dashed as some of the details of the closed-door discussions were revealed. Of 130 figures invited to the meeting Tuesday, 67 were regional representatives of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. When they had a chance to speak, they tried to share the real difficulties in the industrial and business sites and asked for solutions. The president, however, avoided making clear promises.
Industrialists representing regions are the peripheral nerves of the Korean economy. They make up the value chain to the products under Korea’s household names and pillars of Korean industries and trade. They are responsible for employing 99 percent of Korea’s working population. They concentrated their questions on the rapid hikes in the minimum wage and the government’s policy to phase out nuclear power plants. Lee Jae-ha, chairman of the Daegu chamber, pointed out that rash steps to achieve the hourly minimum wage of 10,000 won ($8.90) could seriously distort the economy. When the president evaded an answer, the labor minister stepped in and said the government was aware of some of the difficulties.
Moon also remained steadfast in his campaign promise to phase out nuclear reactors. Han Cheol-soo, who represented Changwon city, pleaded for a reversal in the plan by underscoring that companies related to the nuclear reactor business were collapsing because they ran out of work after finishing deliveries for the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors under construction. New reactor projects have been scrapped under the administration’s vision to reduce reliance on nuclear energy. Moon reiterated that there was no change in the plan.
Korea’s gross domestic product underperformed the global average by 1 percentage point last year even without major external shocks. Ideology-led policy drive defying the law of the economy has been wreaking havoc on the economy. Former Finance and Economy Minister Lee Kyu-sung stressed that it is more important to guide economic policy by the realities than by ideology at hard times. The Blue House must pay heed to the voices of the business community if it is concerned about the economy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 30