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Lee hopes to turn crisis into opportunity with ‘government-led investment’ for SMEs

Democratic Party election committee officials resign en masse to support Lee

Ruling Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung makes a speech at a forum in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Ruling Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung makes a speech at a forum in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The Democratic Party of Korea’s Lee Jae-myung on Wednesday pledged to increase support for small and medium-sized businesses, vowing to boost the pandemic-hit economy with “government-led investment” should he be elected president.

On Wednesday, Lee announced his vision for small and medium-sized businesses at the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business in Yeouido, western Seoul.

As a factory worker-turned-politician, Lee has positioned himself as a labor-friendly figure.

“Like the New Deal programs during the Great Depression, we should turn this crisis into an opportunity through government-led investments,” Lee said. “The market of creativity and innovation cannot exist without the basic rules of fairness.”

As part of his election pledges, Lee promised to take steps to prevent small and medium-sized businesses from falling victim to technology theft, to keep watch on digital platform businesses to prevent them from taking advantage of small businesses, and to prevent unfair subcontracting practices.

Lee also promised to invest in new businesses, establish Cloud-based platforms and set up a fund for “decacorn companies” -- privately owned companies valued at more than 10 trillion won ($8.4 billion) each.

In regards to small-business owners hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee promised to reduce their burden to pay off rent and promote a “fair business model” for leases. Also, he stressed reforming the contract system for franchise businesses.

Continuing the policy initiatives he set forth when he was governor of Gyeonggi Province, Lee promised to expand local business voucher programs, the government-run low-fee food delivery app for small-business owners and support for delivery workers.

“I will prove that respect so that labor and businesses can co-exist. True business-friendly strategies are based on fairness, not inappropriate alliances,” Lee said.

After Lee announced his plans, figures from the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business called for the government to support and protect small and medium-sized businesses, which are going through difficult times.

Earlier Wednesday, Lee apologized on behalf of the ruling party at a meeting held to speed up the passage of legislation to benefit the people.

“I will make an apology to show that the Democratic Party will become a newly reformed, changed party through thorough introspection and remorse,” Lee said at the party’s headquarters in Yeouido. 

Lee apologizes on his knees for his party’s shortcomings, at a policy meeting in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Lee apologizes on his knees for his party’s shortcomings, at a policy meeting in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Yun Ho-jung, floor leader of the Democratic Party, and other figures from the party were present at the meeting.

“The priorities of political parties should always be about the people and their lives. There is not any other excuse,” Lee said, adding that actions matter more than promises.

The meeting was initially set to be held privately after the opening statements, but Lee continued to openly discuss some legislative bills with legislators in front of the press.

“The National Assembly should deal with matters as fast as it can responsibly. It should also use the ‘fast track’ program to set an agenda if needed, so that the people can see that their (legislators are) doing their job,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, senior Democratic Party officials decided to resign en masse from party posts.

“Lawmakers who have major posts at the Democratic Party have decided to step down from their posts with firm resolve,” said Rep. Youn Kwan-suk, the party’s secretary-general.

“The senior officials and the party chairman decided the resignation can broaden candidate Lee’s views.”

The mass resignation list includes chief policymaker Park Wan-joo, deputy chief policymaker You Dong-soo, chief spokesperson Koh Yong-jin and chief strategist Song Kap-seok.

Youn underlined that party Chairman Song Young-gil is to remain in his post.

Lee thanked the officials for the mass resignation.

“I did not call for the replacement of the officials,” Lee said, adding the resignations have not been accepted yet. “But the committee needed a reform as it could not respond promptly to the people’s needs.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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