The Moon Jae-in administration Tuesday announced a comprehensive plan for the Korean New Deal. The purpose of the plan is to invest 160 trillion won by 2025 to create 1.9 million jobs. The ambitions scheme aims to revitalize the economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and secure future growth engines based on the three pillars of the plan such as Digital New Deal, Green New Deal, and the establishment of social safety net. President Moon Jae-in said he will check the progress of the plan by himself by presiding over a meeting one or two times a month, suggesting that the administration will put its main focus on the plan in the latter half of the presidential term.
The government unveiled the 10 key tasks of the Korean New Deal in the fields of digital, green, and convergence tasks. The most notable tasks include increasing the number of big data platforms, opening the public data, establishing an AI government, creating a “digital twin” of infrastructure data, such as roads, underground spaces, harbors, and dams for better management. Other tasks include digitizing old industrial complexes and transforming old buildings into green and energy-efficient ones.
It is necessary for the government to spend money in order to actively revitalize the economy, which has faced the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. But it also needs to use its finance effectively to achieve both immediate economic recovery and sustainable growth. Among the projects announced by the government, many one-off projects, such as exchanging old computers for teachers and providing wearable devices to people with chronic diseases, are not likely to strengthen the country’s digital competitiveness.
Countries around the world are in a fierce competition for survival in the post-COVID-19 era. The European Union (EU) has announced the “Next Generation EU” plan, where it aims to invest 750 billion euros into green deal and digital transformation. Japan plans to nurture 1 million AI talents for the next four years. South Korea unveiled its plan to nurture 100,000 AI and software experts. But it is unclear how much progress will be made due to the regulation on the admissions quotas of universities.
What is more important than creating temporary jobs is to nurture talents who will pioneer the future. While the country has a high youth unemployment rate, high-tech industries are experiencing a shortage of talent. The government should do more than making investments and be able to encourage market investment and innovation. The government should give priority in supporting infrastructure and nurturing talent. In order for the Korean New Deal to be successful, not only financial departments but all government offices, including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare should work together to break the barriers between ministries to reform regulations.