Change and challenge

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Change and challenge

 Corporate keywords for 2022 are “change” and “challenge.” Chung Euisun, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, vowed to “realize what is possible as customers’ everyday.” Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, spoke of “great entrepreneurship” to join the “front tier in the new age.” Koo Kwang-mo, chairman of LG Group, called for innovation in thoughts and working ways. Lotte Group Chair Shin Dong-bin stressed “courageous venture” and Chairman Kim Seung-yeon of Hanwha Group argued “the bowstring must be pulled harder when the wind is strong.”

The economy is surrounded by mines this year. The political front is pouring out populist platforms ahead of the presidential election in March and local government elections in June. Presidential candidates all vow tax cuts and do not pay heed to the health of public finance. The free lunch cannot go on. One day, the bill will arrive. The tightening environment once the U.S. starts lifting rates also poses a challenge. An open external-reliant economy like Korea is vulnerable to the winds in the global markets. Readiness to various contingencies must be raised.

Korea Inc. sustained the economy in the Covid-19 havoc. Manufacturing based on ICT power shone during crisis times. The government must stop taking credit by boasting about aggressive and preemptive policies. It is companies that generate lasting jobs and economy. Private-led growth — not state-led growth — must stimulate employment and consumption to feed benign investment-led growth cycle in the economy.

In a year-end meeting with business tycoons, President Moon Jae-in said that only companies can create good jobs and the government can merely provide support. But his government did the opposite. It increased public payroll and forced conversion of irregular workers to permanent status. Tax-financed jobs for senior and young people cannot make lasting jobs.

Jobs cannot suddenly appear just because business leaders are patted on the shoulder over a meal at the presidential office. Employers must be given more flexibility with the stringent 52-hour workweek and the minimum wage. They must allow people to work longer and moderate the pace of minimum wage increase when necessary.

Presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party and his rival Yoon Suk-yeol of the opposition People Power Party joined the stock market’s opening day both clad in red ties to hope for a bullish year. Wages go up not through a forcible increase in the minimum wage, but through revived economy. Stock moves on the same principle. Instead of wishes for the Kospi hitting 5,000, the stock market and companies must become freer from regulations. Candidates must think harder on what will be the best support for enterprises.
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