Let me begin the 44th Cabinet Meeting.
To mark Hanbok Culture Week, I – like all the Cabinet members attending this meeting – have opted to wear Hanbok. The traditional Korean attire, Hanbok represents our time-honored culture. Its beauty and unique value are being recognized by people around the world. The Oxford English Dictionary adding “hanbok” to its latest edition – one of 26 new Korean words – is believed to show the high level of global interest in our clothing. During Hanbok Culture Week, a range of colorful events are scheduled to take place. Despite all of the anti-epidemic measures being imposed, I hope the people will have a respite, albeit brief, to relish the charm of Hanbok.
People around the world are enthusiastic about Korean culture. With K-pop and K-dramas sweeping the globe, movies, games, webtoons and other cultural content from Korea are fascinating people in many parts of the world. The Hallyu frenzy is leading to a growth spurt in the cultural content industry. Relevant exports have increased more than 12-fold over the past ten years, reaching US$11 billion last year. Moreover, the content trade surplus has steadily expanded, posting US$1.96 billion in the first half of this year, an all-time high. The growth of the cultural content industry is spilling over to related industries like K-food and K-beauty. Exports of agricultural and food products have hit record highs, emerging among the most promising export items. Outbound shipments of cosmetics have also reached their highest level ever, making Korea the world’s third largest cosmetics exporter. The Government has strategically fostered the cultural content industry while protecting copyrights and creating a fair and transparent distribution environment. We will further develop the cultural content industry as a new growth engine for our economy and firmly establish the Republic of Korea’s standing as a soft power powerhouse.
As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, culture and arts professionals are suffering undue hardships. The Government is making extensive efforts, including providing assistance for creative activities and subsistence support as well as strengthening the employment safety net, but these still are not enough. We will continue to work out multifaceted measures to help culture and arts professionals devote themselves to their creative activities free from worries about how to secure daily necessities and to enable everyone to enjoy their creative works.
The surest way is to proceed as early as possible toward the daily routine recovery stage. Fortunately, the increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases is starting to slow. When it comes to vaccination, the number of people who have received their first shot exceeded 40 million as of yesterday, and the percentage of those who are fully inoculated out of the total population passed 60 percent. When limiting it to adults, those 18 or older, the percentages are over 90 and 70, respectively. The administering of booster shots also begins today. In addition, the Committee for Assistance with the Recovery of Daily Routines, tasked with devising a phased plan for the return to normalcy, will be up and running this week. This is the final gate before the phased recovery of our daily routines. As has been done in an exemplary manner so far, if we endure a bit more, we will be able to move toward that long-desired daily routine recovery stage as planned.
Last week, the Government issued dollar- and euro-denominated foreign exchange stabilization bonds valued at about US$1.3 billion with a record-low spread, and the spread hit a new low yet again in the secondary market over the weekend. This attests to high confidence in our economy, even at a time when uncertainties in the global market have recently been increasing. In particular – carrying added significance – Korea has become the first Asian country to issue euro-denominated green bonds for investments in eco-friendly industries. Issuing green bonds requires much stricter procedures, so this success reflects faith in our commitment to the Green New Deal and our innovative capacity, and this will contribute to our transition to a low-carbon economy.
Foreign direct investment has increased by more than 40 percent year on year and has reached the second highest total ever for the first three quarters, following that of 2018. Notably, these investments have been concentrated in the Korean New Deal, materials, parts and equipment, vaccines and other strategic industries prioritized by my Administration, showing high confidence in our policies. Our country’s sovereign credit ratings are holding at record highs, and the growth forecast of the Korean economy remains solid at more than 4 percent even as those of other countries are being downgraded worldwide. Exports have been recording all-time highs month after month, and Korea’s trade is expected to reach US$1 trillion at the end of this month, hitting that mark at the fastest pace for any year of our history. These are favorable indicators that our macro economy is doing considerably well and that the fundamentals are strong.
However, from now on, we must do all we can to brace for uncertainties in the global economy. Prices are what must be managed with special attention. Price level is sharply increasing in major countries around the world due to rising international oil and raw material prices and growing demand caused by economic recovery. Our inflation rate is relatively low, but it is a huge burden on our people’s livelihoods. Therefore, I ask the Government to concentrate all of its efforts on stabilizing living costs, for instance, by freezing public utility service charges and managing supply and demand for agricultural, livestock and marine products. At the same time, international factors driving up inflation must be closely monitored.
The Framework Act on Data will be promulgated at the Cabinet Meeting today. Since the three data related laws revised last year led to a breakthrough in data utilization, a solid institutional foundation for establishing a data-based economy has been laid out. Our Administration has been doing all it can to build an ecosystem for the data industry, for instance, by declaring a transition to the data economy early on and pushing for a data dam as a key Korean New Deal program. The number of data providing companies has more than tripled in just two years, and the value of that market has grown rapidly to about 20 trillion won. The speed of its growth will accelerate even further going forward.
Data is what drives competitiveness in this era, and the more we use it, the more valuable it becomes. The combination of data and networks makes existing industries more intelligent, creates new industries and services and plays a significant role in improving the quality of people’s lives. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that our country becomes a data powerhouse that utilizes data in the best way possible globally.