Actions, not words, are crucial in urgent times

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Actions, not words, are crucial in urgent times

The televised emergency cabinet meeting on the economy under the chair of President Yoon Suk-yeol last week was meaningful. The government which had held the emergency economic meeting 10 times before had the 80-minuite meeting be broadcast live last Thursday. The people had not been aware where the economy was headed because the government had not shared the urgency of the situation despite escalating uncertainties over the economy.

Therefore, the meeting was impressive enough to be closely watched by people to decipher how well the government was navigating against the tumultuous economic climate and how united government offices were in the face of grave challenges at home and abroad. In the meeting, President Yoon mostly listened, while cabinet ministers discussed the ways to weather the crisis with one another. The president set the direction that jobs and investment should be led by the private sector. We welcome his direction.

The key to reviving the economy amidst challenges is liberalization and deregulation. The government agreed that the 52-hour workweek rigidly employed even on overseas operation should be eased and that overtime for companies with less than 30 employees is needed for the smooth operation of smaller companies.

Cabinet members also suggested that the government coordinate so that competition among shipbuilders does not ruin the competitiveness of the industry. The government also decided to increase quota for migrant workers to address a critical labor shortage in factories and farms, and eased mortgage loan guidelines to prop up the housing market.

And yet, the meeting fell short of expectations due to a lack of urgency. Yoon pointed to rising uncertainties in the financial market and economy. But ministers mostly described how Korean enterprises were doing well, even as companies and brokerages were having trouble raising financing for immediate operation. The economic prospects for next year are grimmer than this year.

Although an export rebound is essential to drive growth, a set of bills aimed at promoting the mainstay chip industry has been gathering dust in the National Assembly. Half of the innovations that helped turn 100 global start-ups into unicorns with valuation of more than $1 billion are not allowed in Korea. Such issues have not been addressed, nor the urgent labor, education and pension reforms.

The emergency meetings must not end as a showpiece. The government must hold deeper discussions on each industry to draw up deregulation plans and solutions. The government must include lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in the meeting to draw bipartisan and public support. Actions, not words, are crucial in urgent times.
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