Park pledges to slash red tape

By Korea Herald

Seoul plans 20% cut in business regulations by 2016

  • Published : Mar 20, 2014 - 21:07
  • Updated : Mar 20, 2014 - 21:15
The government pledged Thursday to cut the total number of regulations on business activities to 80 percent of the current level by 2016.

The plan, unveiled during a televised meeting led by President Park Geun-hye at Cheong Wa Dae, translates into the removal of 2,200 regulations and a drop in the total from 15,269 to 13,069.

The government also reported it will adopt Britain’s “regulation cap” system to keep steady the total cost of regulations borne by businesses and the public. The system calls for removing old regulations to make room for new ones.

It will first be tested by seven ministries, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, starting in July, before being expanded across the government starting in January next year.
President Park Geun-hye speaks at a nationally televised meeting on deregulation with business leaders and economy-related ministers at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“Although past governments had sought to lift regulations, Korea still has many obsolete rules, which cannot be found anywhere around the world,” Park said in an opening speech at the meeting with business leaders and economy-related ministers.

Park called for the government and the public sector to lead the reforms. The president’s resolution would be meaningless unless civil servants come together and show a willingness to deregulate, she added.

“Ministries and officials with excellent performance in deregulation should be given exceptional incentives while those who give people a hard time (with regulations) should be held accountable,” Park said.

The president also pointed to figures showing that Korea falls behind its OECD peers in terms of easing investment hurdles.

To Park, deregulation is the top state agenda in her three-year plan to reinvigorate the economy. The blueprint calls for raising Korea’s potential growth rate to around 4 percent and its per capita national income to more than $30,000 by 2017.

The incumbent administration believes that investment is the key to spurring an economic recovery. It has said it would lift or ease all but core regulations to promote fresh investment that will hopefully lead to more jobs.

The president stressed that deregulation was a prerequisite for realizing the administration’s “creative economy” vision.

“The reason I am putting the focus on deregulation rather than on anything else is because it means job creation,” Park said. “I believe that deregulation is the only key we can use without any cost to innovate the economy and drive it forward.”

The meeting had originally been slated for Monday but was put off at the last minute after Park balked at the proposal from her aides to include only a handful of businesspeople. The rest of the participants were chosen from among government officials.

Park called for the meeting to be rearranged to include more businesspeople and make it “open-ended,” saying she wanted to use the session to listen to what businesses had to say about regulations and to demonstrate the government’s commitment to deregulation.

To meet the president’s demands, more than 30 percent of some 160 participants in the meeting came from the corporate sector. They included not only those from the country’s major business organizations, but also SMEs and mom-and-pop stores.

Many talked of the difficulties they faced due to unnecessary red tape, such as requirements for machinery manufacturers to obtain a large number of certificates, many of them overlapping one another, for their products.

Other complaints included restrictions on where buffet restaurants can buy bread, regulations on hiring foreign nationals at meat restaurants, the ban on street food trucks and restrictions on car tuning services.

By Kim Yon-se and news reports