I am pleased to meet you all. You likely have many concerns, so I’ve come here today. Reportedly, traditional markets are facing increasing difficulties, and to make matters worse, the COVID-19 outbreak is dealing a serious blow to you at the moment. In particular, many foreign tourists visit Namdaemun Market and account for a lot of your sales. The number of foreign tourists has recently dropped, so I think this may add to your hardships. The Government plans to provide all possible support to help traditional markets, microbusiness owners, the self-employed and tourism companies overcome difficulties through financial, fiscal or marketing assistance.
Besides government support, what is most important is that people overcome undue fears as early as possible. I believe that the fundamental solution is for the people to briskly go about their daily activities again, especially going to work and spending money. To that end, I’ve paid a visit today with the wish that more people come to traditional markets. I hope today’s visit will help Namdaemun Market regain vitality.
COVID-19 is in fact a new infectious disease, so it is only natural to remain alert and do everything we can to keep it from spreading. Still, that is a task for the Government to carry out in cooperation with local governments. The people can fully protect their own safety by following guidelines recommended by the quarantine headquarters. It has now been proven that undue anxiety is unnecessary.
Looking at the situation regarding the contagion – though there have been second and tertiary infections – the infected were mostly family members of the confirmed patients or those who had very close contact with them almost as if they were relatives. No one has gotten infected just by randomly passing one of the infected. Moreover, even if someone went to locations where the confirmed patients had been, it would be perfectly safe as long as those places have been disinfected, according to the specialists. Therefore, overly withdrawing from normal daily activities like this and avoiding traditional markets could not be very helpful to the lives and economic wellbeing of ordinary people. So, I hope that the people will now quickly return to their active everyday lives again. The Government will do all it can on its part so that our economy regains vitality once the situation is brought to a conclusion.
Signs of a significant economic recovery were actually emerging at the end of last year. Last December, the composite leading indicator hit a new high for the first time in the past few years. The value of average daily exports also registered growth in January. It is truly regrettable to see ourselves in a difficult situation again at this juncture due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Last year, a record high of 17.5 million tourists visited Korea, so the Government set a goal for the year to bring in an era of 20 million foreign tourists coming to Korea annually. The number of foreign tourists actually increased 15 percent in January, and the number of Chinese visitors jumped as much as 24 percent. However, these numbers started plunging after January 24 and the number of Chinese tourists has now fallen nearly 60 percent. The Government will do its best to put an end to this situation so that tourism can regain vitality once more.
It is a difficult time for everyone, but the Government will do its utmost. I hope that we’ll be able to prevail over the hardship by pooling our strengths together.