President Park Geun-hye called Thursday for a drastic easing of regulations to ensure private companies can produce and sell energy as the country seeks to better cope with challenges posed by climate change.
Currently, private companies are restricted from participating in the electricity market virtually monopolized by state-run power provider Korea Electric Power Corp.
"There is a need to lift barriers to entry for private companies," Park said in a debate on the energy industry. "We should drastically eliminate outdated regulations restricting their free participation in the market."
The comments came as South Korea is pushing to encourage its people to save energy, and generate clean and renewable energy in a country that relies on imports for almost all of its domestic energy needs.
She also called for an expansion of charging stations for electric cars as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for global warming.
"We should more aggressively push ahead with building related infrastructure," Park said.
She also said private companies should be allowed to invest in charging stations, blaming the low use of electric cars on a lack of charging facilities.
The number of electric cars on South Korean roads is about 2,500, according to Yang Chang-joo, an official handling electric cars-related issues at the environment ministry.
South Korea plans to raise the number of quick-charging stations to 620 by 2017 from the current 177, Yang said.
The environment ministry provides subsidies worth 15 million won ($14,700) each to buyers of electric cars to help promote their use.
Separately, the provincial authorities on the country's southern resort island of Jeju provide additional subsidies worth 8 million won each to consumers who buy electric cars. (Yonhap)