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Economy needs more attention from presidential runners: KCCI

Headquarters of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul (Yonhap)
Headquarters of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul (Yonhap)
South Korea’s business leaders on Monday asked political parties to put the economy on the front burner of the presidential election in March, delivering a list of economic agenda that need to be addressed by presidential candidates.

The 73 board members of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Korea’s largest private economic organization, said the letter outlined three propositions, 10 agenda items, five reform tasks and 70 action plans for political groups to consider in the upcoming election.

“Korea’s current situation is not satisfactory, and the future is not that bright either. We hope for meaningful debates on the country’s development in the 20th presidential election,” the KCCI proposal said.

With the poll less than five months away, the race for the presidency is fast shaping up in South Korea, with Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung chosen as the flagbearer of the ruling Democratic Party. The election talk so far has been predominantly about scandals surrounding the front-runners of rival political factions, rather than the policies they stand for.

Calling for a focus on the economy, the business chiefs said the Korean economy was facing global headwinds stemming from an intensifying rivalry between the United States and China for economic hegemony, the call for carbon neutrality in the manufacturing sector, as well as the rapidly changing industrial environment with the proliferation of new technologies.

“The road we are going down is much more rugged than the one in the past and it would be difficult to pursue sustainable development with the old engine and software we have now,” the proposal added.

As for issues that the next president will have to deal with, the KCCI pointed to how the private sector’s contribution to economic growth has dropped from 6.9 percentage points in 2010 to 0.3 percentage point in 2019. The transition to new industries that can replace outdated sectors has been sluggish, while the country faces increasing obstacles in overseas trade with the rise of trade protectionism globally, it added.

To deal with these issues, presidential camps should focus on five agendas: improving economic vitality; finding new growth engines; achieving net-zero carbon emissions; solving the low birth rate issue; and be more active in handling with international relations, KCCI said.

The business chiefs also said presidential candidates should come up with ways to raise the life satisfaction level of the public by strengthening the local job market and reinforcing the society’s safety and welfare programs. The proposal pointed to the country’s long labor hours, low global rankings in labor productivity, as well as high suicide rate.

“In the upcoming presidential election, we hope the candidates compete on their visions and solutions to make South Korea a better country than it is now,” Woo Tae-hee, KCCI’s vice chairman said.

“We hope their debates will be on the future agenda, on sustainable development of the economy and of the world, rather than on past issues.”

By Jo He-rim (