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Moon apologizes for likely missing minimum wage target

President Moon Jae-in on Monday apologized for expected difficulties in meeting his minimum wage goal, and promised measures to help small businesses deal with the rise in wages.

Speaking at a weekly meeting with top presidential aides, Moon also called on corporate, government and labor entities to cooperate in minimum wage-related issues. 

President Moon Jae-in speaks at the meeting with his top aides at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in speaks at the meeting with his top aides at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday. Yonhap

On Saturday, the Minimum Wage Commission set next year’s minimum wage at 8,350 won ($7.40) per hour, up 10.9 percent from this year. To hit Moon’s target of 10,000 won by 2020, next year’s figure needed to be increased by 15.3 percent, according to calculations from labor groups.

At the meeting, Moon apologized, saying that the Minimum Wage Commission’s decision makes it difficult to hit the target but that he accepts the decision.

“(The commission) made a difficult decision by taking in opinions on the minimum wage, and taking into account the realities faced by concerned individuals, the employment situation and internal and external (conditions for) our economy,” Moon said.

He went on to say that while the increase falls short of the target, the double-digit increase “maintains the government’s commitment to the minimum wage policy.”

Saying that government policy alone is not sufficient in continuing the raise and that the economy must endure the changes, Moon called on all concerned parties to cooperate in the matter, and promised support measures.

“The government will draw up follow-up measures to prevent small merchants and self-employed people from being impacted, not only through employment subsidies but also through commercial property lease protection, reasonable (credit) card fees and protecting franchises,” Moon said.

High fees for franchise operators and lease regulations deemed unfair to tenants are among the most commonly cited reasons for the increasing difficulties of small merchants.

While Moon stood by the Minimum Wage Commission’s decision, the change sparked criticism from both conservatives and liberals, as well as labor and business circles.

The minor left-wing Justice Party criticized the increase, calling on the government to “resuscitate the dying 10,000 won minimum wage pledge.”

The conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party, meanwhile, has renewed its call for the government to end the drive to raise the minimum wage.

By Choi He-suk (