Presidents of regional Korean chambers of commerce and industry, business leaders at the forefront of the Korean economy, I am glad to meet you all. We asked you to this New Year event to thank you for your hard work and to hear what you expect from the Government. Again this year, I hope all businesses will make progress and work together with the Government to create economic vitality for the country.
Last year, our exports surpassed US$600 billion for the first time ever, making Korea the world’s sixth largest exporter. Exports from large and leading mid-market companies as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have all increased across the board. Korea became the first country in the world to export over US$100 billion worth of semiconductors as a single component. Overseas shipments of machinery and petrochemical products each posted a record high of US$50 billion. Another noteworthy achievement is the diversification of export items – a 6.9 percent increase in exports by eight new industries such as electric vehicles, advanced materials, biohealth, next-generation semiconductors, robots, aerospace, new energy projects and OLEDs. In addition, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals mainly produced by leading mid-market companies saw their outbound shipments soar by as much as 27 percent and 17 percent, respectively, creating high expectations. My gratitude and praise go out to both large and leading mid-market companies, responsible for 80 percent of the country’s total exports last year, for yielding such remarkable results.
I am also especially thankful to them for significantly expanding cooperation with SMEs for mutual benefit. To secure global competitiveness, the entire ecosystem should evolve – not only large businesses but their partner suppliers as well. There are many good opportunities to help the public and SMEs gain trust in large companies: the prompt sharing of gains from development and the expansion of the so-called “win-win payment system,” which allows SMEs to cash in their accounts receivables at a fee applied to large companies and public organizations, for suppliers; the provision of funds, original technologies and necessary personnel; and the sharing of responsibility for environmental issues.
Last year, financial transactions through the win-win payment system surpassed 100 trillion won for the first time. It has become an exemplary case, giving hope for the equitable distribution of the resulting gains. Nurturing in-house business ventures and assisting the construction of smart factories will contribute greatly to innovative growth that features manufacturing innovation and the development of new technologies and products.
I urge you to actively pursue mutually beneficial cooperation from the perspective of corporate survival and development strategy, not a patronizing measure to grant favors.
The Government, for its part, will help create a level playing field and provide institutional support for mutual cooperation between large and smaller businesses.
Employment and investment are the foundation for promoting business growth and securing future growth momentum. As such, they contribute to the national economy and daily lives of the people. The young tend to favor jobs at businesses with more than 300 employees. Our country's 30 leading large business groups have continued to increase their hiring over the past five years. Businesses with more than 300 employees increased their recruitment by approximately 50,000 last year, which accounted for half of the total employment gains. Creating quality jobs is our economy’s most pressing need. You business leaders have done so well to date. Still, I ask you all once again to spearhead job creation with keen interest in the issue.
Investments by large businesses that hire more than 300 employees account for about 85 percent of our country's capital investment. Key leading companies have continued to invest in advancing flagship and new industries, but since the second quarter of last year, capital investments have started to decline to our great regret. My Administration's goal this year is to help create an environment where businesses can make a vigorous leap forward. I understand that numerous businesses are planning to make large-scale investments this year. A task force will be set up within the Government to facilitate the implementation of those investment projects.
Corporate competitiveness, as well as quality jobs, ultimately boils down to successful investments. I hope you all redouble your efforts to identify novel projects and increase relevant investments going forward.
I’d like to see more investments channeled into new industries, technologies and products with the objective of securing future growth engines.
As a steppingstone for businesses leaping forward, innovation is essential for transforming our fast follower-model economy into a pace-setting economy. I look forward to large companies and leading mid-market companies playing a leading role in the transition toward a pace-setting economy by generating added value.
The Government will provide active support for your efforts to innovate: an R&D budget exceeding 20 trillion won will be injected to help businesses develop technologies, nurture experts and commercialize advanced technologies. In addition, the Government will render continued support to ensure that the hydrogen economy, the future car industry, bio industry, new energy industry, non-memory semiconductor industry, 5G-based industry, key parts industry and materials and equipment industry can grow into new growth engines.
With a Korean regulatory sandbox coming into play soon, regulatory innovation to foster new industries will occur in a swift manner. A dozen new convergence- and integration-driven businesses are in the application or preparation stage, and the Government will fully support the launching and commercialization of new technologies and businesses. Many forecast that the Korean economy will face difficulties as the global economy slows down this year. However, I believe that if the Government, businesses, management and labor join forces, we can help overcome any difficulty and revitalize the Korean economy.
Large businesses and leading mid-market companies have driven the Korean economy’s major trends and transitions. I believe that you will be at the forefront of pioneering new industries and markets. The Government will listen to your voices more carefully and endeavor to quickly resolve difficulties in your fields this year.
At today’s meeting, I hope that you will not hold back on your opinions. Thank you.