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[Newsmaker] Where Yoon stands on jobs, taxes and real estate

A look back on the former prosecutor general’s remarks on economy and business

Presidential nominee Yoon Seok-youl speaks at the People Power Party’s national convention after winning the party’s primary election last Friday. (Yonhap)
Presidential nominee Yoon Seok-youl speaks at the People Power Party’s national convention after winning the party’s primary election last Friday. (Yonhap)
Yoon Seok-youl, the main opposition People Power Party’s standard-bearer for the next presidential election, has no known experience in economic matters.

The novice politician was until March the country’s prosecutor general.

But having been born to an economist father, Yoon has openly affiliated himself with two long-dead economists, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises. Both were champions of free-market policies, minimal government intervention and laissez-faire capitalism.

But what does that actually mean for Asia’s fourth-largest economy, if Yoon becomes president?

As a conservative candidate, Yoon is generally expected to take a pro-business stance, be critical of the incumbent liberal administration’s nuclear energy phaseout plan, and advocate lower taxes on corporations and the rich.

We can no longer go back to a government-led economy,” Yoon said during his victory speech after winning the party’s presidential ticket.

“It is the creative and innovative corporations that generate new jobs. I will do away with unnecessary regulations and focus on (nurturing) companies that can lead the fourth industrial revolution with AI and so on, in order to turn around the local economy’s declining growth potential.”

Here is what to expect from Yoon’s economic policy if he wins next year’s election, based on his remarks during the primary race so far.

New homes and lower taxes

At a press conference in August, Yoon unveiled his first campaign promise -- to provide 2.5 million new homes across the nation during his term, 1.3 million of which would be in Seoul and the surrounding areas.

He has also pledged to provide 300,000 small homes below market price to people in their 20s and 30s who do not own homes.

The homes would be smaller than 85 square meters and could be sold to the government after five years for a return on investment of up to 70 percent.

While his primary competitors criticized the policy as “vain populism,” Yoon spoke of the need to “reconsider” the Moon Jae-in administration’s real estate tax policies.

“I will ease the excessive curbs imposed on home-backed loans and cut capital gains taxes,” he said.

He also talked about a possible overhaul of the comprehensive real estate holding tax, which targets owners of expensive homes and multiple homes.

Housing policy is high on the agenda for next year’s election.

According to a recent report released by a research institute under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, it would take up to 100 years for the average person in their 20s to buy an apartment in Seoul with savings.

A recent survey conducted by The Herald Business and the Korea Society Opinion Institute showed that 1 in 4 voters believe housing market stability is the biggest challenge facing the next president.

Jobs and deregulation

Nearly 4 million economically inactive people -- those neither working nor seeking work -- hope to start working within the next year, according to recent data from Statistics Korea.

Against this backdrop, Yoon announced at a policy presentation in September that he would loosen some 80 corporate regulations to help generate growth and create jobs.

He also called for labor market flexibility and criticized the current 52-hour workweek as a “policy failure.”

Yoon has said he favors a flexible labor system in which workers can choose between permanent and part-time contracts.

But his remark earlier this year that workers should be able to work “120 hours a week” and rest afterward drew criticism.

“If a person works 120 hours a week, they will die,” a spokesperson for ruling Democratic Party presidential front-runner Lee Jae-myung said at the time.



By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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