Let me begin the 5th Cabinet Meeting.
Today’s Cabinet Meeting is mainly for responding to the novel coronavirus. The need for close cooperation and coordination between central and local governments is integral to containing the spread of this infectious disease in local communities. For this reason, we are being joined by four heads of local governments today – Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, Gyeonggi-do Governor Lee Jae-myung, Chungcheongbuk-do Governor Lee Si-jong and Chungcheongnam-do Governor Yang Seung-jo. The four of them are participating in a representative capacity, but I urge all local governments to mobilize every available resource in cooperation with the central government in order to keep the virus from spreading in their communities.
Protecting the lives and safety of the people is the raison d'etre of a nation and the basic duty of government. The Government is responding to the current situation by mustering all national capabilities to protect our people from the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Prime Minister is at the forefront of making emergency responses that correspond to the highest alert level. To minimize the inflow of this infectious disease, we’ve strengthened immigration controls and begun to phase in restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals.
The Government has established a closely-knit infectious disease prevention and control network with all possible virus transmission routes in mind. It is also exerting the utmost effort to stem the spread of the virus in local communities. The Government will embark on a mission to end the novel coronavirus outbreak with an extraordinary resolve not to lower our guard and not to allow even one lax moment or the slightest breach.
Meanwhile, the Government will use this as an opportunity to work on enhancing our capabilities to conduct preventive responses and research into infectious diseases at the national level. We will do this by assigning roles, sharing information and promoting cooperation between relevant academic associations in the private sector and public institutions led by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have sufficient capabilities to prevail over this situation. I hope that the people will put their confidence in the Government and pool their strengths to help overcome the hardships.
The economy – which had been showing positive signs earlier this year – and people’s livelihoods have come to suffer again due to this unexpected variable. The novel coronavirus is disrupting consumption, tourism, cultural activities and leisure, even constricting the everyday lives of ordinary people. It is bound to have a negative impact on consumer sentiment and domestic demand, which have been rebounding, and put an increasing burden on the Korean economy. In China – which accounts for one-fourth of our exports and one-third of our inbound tourists – factories are coming to a halt, trips abroad are being suspended and component supply chains are being disrupted. As a result, difficulties facing our exports, tourism and industrial sites are starting to materialize.
It’s a lamentable situation but something we have to cope with and navigate through. It’s a mountain and river that we cannot avoid crossing. The Government’s role is to alleviate those burdens on the national economy that are becoming more tangible and to respond to the plight of domestic companies in a responsible manner while placing priority on taking all-out measures to stop the spread of the virus and put an end to it at the earliest date possible.
Preparing for the worst-case scenario – a prolonged outbreak – we’ll have to expedite devising various measures to minimize any shock or damage to our economy. As difficulties grow serious, the answer can be found where they occur. When uncertainty heightens, it is crucial to enhance communication with those on the scene. It is necessary to strengthen communication with regions, industries and businesses as well as to work out active support measures.
We need to actively address the difficulties of our companies operating in China and strengthen support for SMEs struggling to export to help them secure trade financing and market access. We must actively assist their procuring of urgently needed parts and materials and diversifying exports in addition to our efforts to broaden the path for those Korean companies returning from abroad.
Government-backed financing and various other measures will have to be put in place to assist less-established self-employed business owners who experience a more difficult time whenever the economy is in a downturn.
Local economies are a huge concern as well. I ask you to immediately lay out support measures through active cooperation with local governments so that local economies, including regional industries and tourism services, do not experience contraction.
The Government must remain unwavering and continue to do what it can in a steady manner. I urge you to begin by swiftly implementing fiscal plans as scheduled. When the private sector undergoes a hardship, the Government should add vigor to the economy by quickly making fiscal investments. Although the internal and external economic conditions are not favorable, change and innovation must continue. We will have to further accelerate regulatory innovation and pool our strength to ensure that new technologies and industries become new growth engines that will help usher in the future of our economy.
Cooperation among government ministries and agencies has become more urgent. We have already eliminated barriers between the ministries and agencies in response to Japan’s export restrictions and built the foundation to move toward a stronger economy while overcoming difficulties by promoting self-sufficiency in the materials, parts and equipment industries and improving their competitiveness. As such, we will have to respond wisely by strengthening collaboration among the ministries and agencies even amid this emergency and seize any opportunity for an economic recovery.
The economy is a state of mind. Exaggerated fear and anxiety will cause our economy to experience more difficulties. The Government will have to stop fake news and provide information related to this infectious disease swiftly and accurately. We must keep in mind that the Government fulfilling its responsibility to prevent the people from feeling apprehensive is directly connected to our economy. I also urge the people to pull together by properly dealing with inaccurate information so that public opinion is formed in an appropriate manner that helps solve the situation. Thank you.