President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to China last month has provided a reconciliatory mood to resume bilateral business ties between the two countries after a monthslong diplomatic row that hindered Korean companies’ operations there.
But what worries the chairman of Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry Park Yong-maan, is rather China taking a step ahead of South Korea, an IT giant, toward technologies of the “fourth industrial revolution.“ The former Doosan Group chairman who led the business delegation to Moon’s trip turned the blame to “the walls of regulations.”
“Will it be understandable if we say we have a lot more regulations and are still facing the walls of regulations on emerging technologies and crucial changes than a socialist country that have much more things to take control of?” asked Park during an interview with Korean reporters.
“We believe that we are ahead of China, but in the field of the fourth industrial revolution, (what worries me is that) China could pass us and wait for us there,” he said.
KCCI Chairman Park Yong-maan (KCCI)
The KCCI chairman quoted a survey by MIT on seven Chinese companies listed on the 50 smartest enterprises in the world. The list has 31 US companies, but no Korean ones.
Another survey on the world’s 100 most innovative startups revealed that more than half of their businesses would be impossible to operate in Korea, he said.
It is premature to talk about Moon’s policies on business regulations, he said, but urged the government and the parliament to create a freer environment for businesses, while regulating what really hinders fair market competition.
The chairman also expressed concerns on Moon’s labor policies, that his drive of raising the minimum wage and shortening working hours, which he said could place a huge burden on small businesses.
“Small- and medium-sized companies are not doing well. Their sales profits are around 4 percent on average, but the minimum wage is to go up 16.4 percent in the New Year,” he said.
“This is why (the government) should categorize companies that should or shouldn’t apply the minimum wage rule. If not, they will suffer even more.”
Despite a rosy picture in the global economy and Korea’s likely achievement of the $30,000 per capita GNI mark, Park addressed rising protectionism, rate hikes and geopolitical risks from the Middle East.
“We welcome the Korean economy entering the $30,000 mark, and it is good news. But as businesses we can’t help but feel pressed because problems that have happened in advanced countries including low fertility rate, aging society and changes in job market are also emerging,” he said. “To tackle those problems and to be ready to enter the league of advanced countries, businesses also have a long way to go.”
Park has led the KCCI since 2013, stepped down as the chairman of Doosan Group in 2016, passing the baton to his nephew Park Jeong-won.
Though he remains as the head of the board of directors at Doosan Infracore, a machinery arm of the group, Park has been fully engaged as the representative of the KCCI. He is pursuing a second term.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com