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Former Ministers: Economic Issues Need to Be Prominent in Presidential Campaign

Former Ministers: Economic Issues Need to Be Prominent in Presidential Campaign

Posted December. 11, 2007 03:09,   


Seventeen former economic ministers urged on Monday, “The presidential candidates must stop their political slandering and initiate a serious discussion over how to get the economy to recover.”

The “Discussion Group Concerned about the Economy” is comprised of former economic-related ministers including former Prime Minister Nam Deok-woo, who also served as deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs. The group issued a statement, saying, “I hope that through their responsible discussions, the candidates will let the voters know which one of them will be the leader equipped with the necessary experience and a positive drive so that the public can make a wise choice.”

The statement also said, “South Korea is again facing the four-pronged economic difficulties of low growth, high prices, high interest rates, and a worsening current account. External factors, namely the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, interest rates increases, dollar devaluation, and high oil prices, have had a negative impact on the Korean economy. Yet we could not help but worry about the general weakening of the economic fundamentals.”

The group pointed out, “The Korean economy has had low growth over the past five years, below both its potential growth and the world average growth rates. The primary reasons behind this trend are anti-market government policies and labor-management dispute aggravating the business environment, which has led to brain drain.”

The former ministers criticized, “With its policy of resource redistribution in the wrong direction, the government has failed to boost employment rates, and with its reckless management, the government deficit has doubled in five years time.” They added, “Business recession and increased unemployment have pushed household debts to the level similar to that of domestic credit crisis in 2002. As a result, some analyzed, the middle class has collapsed, and the gap between the poor and the rich has substantially widened.”

The statement argued, “To break through the current difficulty, government support is necessary to: improve business environments in order to stimulate investment; firmly establish constitutionalism; reform the educational system; and enlarge the service industry with enhanced quality. Any policies and regulations that run counter to the globalization trend should be abandoned.”

The discussion group includes 17 former economic-related ministers: former Prime Minister Nam, the senior person in the group; former Deputy Prime Ministers in charge of Economic Affairs Lee Seung-yun, Kim Man-je, Na Ung-bae, Kang Gyeong-shik and Lee Heon-jae; former Finance and Economic Minister Lee Gyu-seong; former Finance Ministers Sah Gong-il, Jeong Yeong-ui and Lee Yong-man; former Science and Technology Minister Kim Jin-hyeon; former Construction Ministers Goh Byeong-u and Seo Yeong-taek: former Commerce Ministers Han Bong-su and Lee Bong-seo; and former Agriculture and Forestry Ministers Kang Hyeon-uk and Han Gab-su.

In the meantime, controversy has risen in the political circle over whether the statement indicates the former ministers’ endorsement of Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak.

Former Minister Lee Yong-man commented, “We expressed our opinion that South Korea needs a leader who can pull the economy out of the current difficulty. We cannot say anything about how others interpret this.”

Another former minister, Lee Bong-seo, however, made it clear, “The statement is not intended to express our endorsement of a certain candidate. We only meant to urge a new government to conduct economic policies in a sensible way.”

Former Prime Minister Nam endorsed GNP former leader Park Geun-hye during the GNP primary, and Lee Bong-seo and independent candidate Lee Hoi-chang are in-laws.

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