Posted July. 29, 2017 07:41,
Updated July. 29, 2017 07:56
President Moon Jae-in met with eight business leaders including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin on Friday, and stressed a message of shared growth and new start. After proposing a toast by chanting “Economy of co-prosperity” in his meeting with Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun, LG Group Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon, and POSCO Chairman Kwon Oh-joon on Thursday, the president suggested business leaders to overcome hardships and conflicts on the day.
The meeting between the presidential office and the business community that broke traditional formality sends a fairly significant message. “The government’s goal is to revive the national economy and your goal is to revive enterprises,” President Moon said. The president effectively dispelled the argument that his administration is biased towards labor, and instead clarified that the administration shares the fate with enterprises as a single community. Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said drives to make innovation by companies themselves have picked up speed within enterprises in tune with the changing business environment in Korea and overseas. Kim's remarks would be the expression of his expectation that the government and enterprises can develop ties of "shared growth" in lieu of inappropriate cozy ties between the government and businesses of the past.
The meetings that took place on two days for the first time two months after the inauguration of the new administration were hardly sufficient to completely address anxiety prevalent within the business community. Entrepreneurs announced a flurry of business plans including cooperation for shared growth with domestic startups related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, creation of jobs that can co-exist with traditional markets, and creation of jobs through rechargeable battery business that met the expectations of the government, as if they were presenting gift sets. However, they had no chance to mention genuinely imperative and thorny issues including the president’s election pledge for Korea to end the nuclear energy era, a hike in tax rates on conglomerates and high-income earners, and a raise in the minimum wages.
As economic policies that require long-term discussions are being pushed for speedily without reservation, companies are much more anxious than before. There is lingering concern that their meeting with the president may lead to a populist event rather than providing a venue for frank and in-depth dialogue. In his recent op-ed to the Forbes magazine, Hosuk Lee Makiyama, director of European Centre for International Political Economy, issued a warning by saying that rapid reform will be a risk factor in Korea’s economic recovery, which illustrate that enterprises’ anxiety is not totally groundless.
The government and enterprises should be able to communicate with each other frequently as partners that jointly operate the economy. Through meetings for open discussions and coordination, they can filter out policy suggestions that are meant to serve interests of only individual companies and individuals, and instead come up with policies of common good that can help create jobs. Meetings between the president and entrepreneurs should no longer be considered surprise moves. If the two sides regularize their meetings, the meetings will not be one-off events and instead will enable them to hold in-depth discussions aimed at "growth involving employment."