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New GNP head says SME help shouldn’t punish large firms

The newly-elected chairperson of the ruling Grand National Party Rep. Hong Joon-pyo expressed concerns over the party’s recent outspoken comments on conglomerate policies.

“The key point in backing small- and medium-sized businesses is to come up with active measures to help them, not to extort from large businesses,” Hong said in a radio interview on Wednesday.

By this, he referred the party’s policy committee vice chairman Kim Song-sik’s pledge to cut back on benefits for conglomerates.

“We need not mislead corporations with such radical remarks,” said Hong.

It is nevertheless true that conglomerates often infringe upon the business domains suitable to smaller firms, so certain restrictions are needed to partition off their respective fields, he said.

“Various benefits have been given to conglomerates as part of the measures to pull the nation out of the global financial crisis, resulting in a biased business environment for firms,” he said.

“The time has now come for them to share their productive results with smaller enterprises and self-employers.”

Hong also vowed to materialize various welfare policies for lower income brackets by the end of the year.

“Low-income families will be able to feel the actual changes over the coming months,” he said.

“For this, I plan to reorganize the party into a task force system so that it may swiftly respond to the people’s demands.”

The new party leader also spoke on ongoing controversial issues including university tuition fees, housing supplies and childcare problems.

The former prosecutor and floor leader, widely known for his upright personality and progressive, people-friendly policies, may soon come into conflict with the party’s current floor leader and former judge, Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, observers said.

Hong also mentioned Rep. Park Geun-hye, the party’s strongest presidential hopeful.

“Rep. Park is certain to enter presidential race, unless there are unexpected interruptions from within the party,” said Hong.

“In that case, next year’s presidential election may be similar to the polls back in 1992 and 1997 when former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung won respectively.”

The GNP head also confirmed his positive ties with Special Affairs Minister Lee Jae-oh.

“I spoke to the minister just before he left for Africa as special presidential envoy,” he said.

“He said that it is highly appropriate that I should lead the party at this point in time. We are to meet soon after he comes back from his trip.”

Rep. Hong was elected chairman in the party’s national convention held on Monday, with a landslide victory over Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who was ranked second in the vote.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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