President Moon Jae-in met with 130 business moguls including leaders of major business groups, CEOs of middle standing enterprise, leaders of Chamber of Commerce & Industry nationwide, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Hyundai Motor Senior Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun. It has been a year and a half since President Moon met business leaders in July 2017. This demonstrates his will to focus on reviving the economy following his meeting with leaders of small and medium sized enterprises and venture companies on January 7.
The president requested generation of jobs by conglomerates and innovation to create future growth engines, and the government in turn, promised to actively provide support of more than 20 trillion won for research development budget and regulatory innovation. Tuesday’s meeting was reportedly carried out in the form of free discussions without any advance scenario. Yet, it must not have been easy for some 130 people to discuss substantial matters candidly for two hours. What was more meaningful was that Moon met businesspeople with interest in economy and encouraged them. The remaining is up to ministers including Strategy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki.
President Moon engaged in a meeting with the business sector about a year and a half ago and listened to various opinions, but there was no practical result. Although businesspeople made numerous suggestions such as innovation of out-of-date system and fostering professional human power that are much needed on site, there is no sign of actual progress up until now. What we hear on the contrary is practitioners calling companies and distressing them by asking when they will make the investment and hiring of new personnel that they promised in front of Moon.
Many business leaders say that the policy goal of the government does not appeal them on site no matter how much the president emphasizes innovative growth. There is no way the economy is going to improve with the National Assembly including the hardliners of the ruling party blocking the pass of legislation on innovation and public servants failing to improve systems that is possible without amending the law. If this is the case, no matter how many times the president meets businesspeople, it will only end with empty words of blessings between each other such as “I support corporations” and “I will invest enthusiastically.”
The circumstance of this year’s economy is not rosy enough to have President Moon and businesspeople engage in void conversations. According to the latest composite leading indicator (CLI) data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Korea’s indicator is down for 20 consecutive months and is practically the same as that of the 1997 financial crisis. To have the meeting between the president and businesspeople progress into productive result, a specific action plan for innovative growth should be proposed rather than brining up subjects. Ministers should use this action plan and show their leadership so that on site public servants may voluntarily lead services for corporations. The government, on the other hand, should check the progress of regulatory innovation and innovative growth frequently and report it to the president and public.