I am glad to meet you all.
The world economy has entered a dark tunnel, but we have to light the way and get past the tunnel. The COVID-19 outbreak is posing a tremendous threat to our economy, which is heavily dependent on overseas markets, but many of our businesses are providing exemplary cases for surmounting the crisis. Today, I am visiting the Gumi National Industrial Complex and Kolon Industries that are illuminating the darkness through the power of solidarity and cooperation. I am deeply grateful to all of you for giving hope to the people.
The GNIC is a living history of the Republic of Korea’s industrial development and overcoming of crises. Launched as a textile manufacturing park half a century ago, it fostered Korea’s electric equipment and electronics industries and achieved US$30 billion in exports in 2005, the first time in history for a single industrial complex. Recently, it is making bold attempts to break through a crisis stemming from its age and changes in industrial structures by nurturing new future industries, creating Gumi-type jobs and establishing a smart industrial complex.
When businesses in the GNIC recently reported confirmed cases, they demonstrated an exemplary response by taking swift infectious disease prevention and control measures while minimizing production setbacks. The spirit of solidarity and cooperation illustrated by Kolon Industries is also amazing. When face masks were in short supply due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the company thought outside the box to rapidly turn its research facilities for medicated melt-blown filters into a production line for face mask filters. The company is running its line 24 hours a day consecutively and providing free of charge enough filters for manufacturers to make some two million face masks.
In addition, the company built and donated a structure housing negative-pressure rooms at Seoul National University Hospital’s human resources center in Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Its labor union promptly concluded collective bargaining without negotiations for the first time in history, also demonstrating the power of solidarity and cooperation.
I feel prouder still upon hearing that Kolon Industries had made preemptive efforts and succeeded in localizing production of fluorine polyimide to replace imports from Japan – even before that country imposed export restrictions last year. Numerous businesses here are now joining forces to overcome the current crisis, and the GNIC is also providing support by setting up an infectious disease prevention and control assistance center.
The power of solidarity and cooperation exhibited by the GNIC is indeed an excellent example of overcoming COVID-19. I hope that it will spread throughout the country and be of help to many businesses and the people. Thanks to the power of your solidarity and cooperation, Gyeongsangbuk-do also seems to be overcoming the COVID-19 outbreak very well. Concerning all the efforts the province has made, I’d like to express my profound gratitude to Governor Lee Cheol-woo, the relevant officials, medical professionals and infectious disease prevention and control experts for their efforts.
The Government will safeguard our economy, industries and the people’s livelihoods without fail.
First, we will ensure that microbusiness owners and other businesses do not go out of business due to the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. The Government has provided emergency funding totaling 32 trillion won, including a supplementary budget, for the affected businesses, microbusiness owners and self-employed small business owners. In addition, through the Emergency Economic Council meetings, we have prepared a large-scale package worth 100 trillion won in total to stabilize finances and the people’s livelihoods and are now implementing it. We will provide sufficient emergency corporate relief funds not only for microbusiness owners and the self-employed but also for SMEs and mid-market companies. We will disburse those funds swiftly to ensure that they reach businesses in need in a timely manner.
Second, we will actively support the people and family finances. The Government decided on an unprecedented emergency support plan to directly provide the people with emergency relief payments. Up to one-million won will be offered for a family of four who are in the bottom 70 percent of the income bracket, which includes the middle class. To this end, the Government will quickly draw up a second supplementary budget proposal through an excruciating restructuring of its expenditures and submit it to the National Assembly. I ask for the National Assembly’s cooperation so that it can be passed within April.
National Health Insurance premiums will be reduced and National Pension contribution and electricity bill payments will be deferred in order to alleviate the suffering of low-income households. Payments for employment insurance and industrial accident compensation insurance premiums will be decreased or delayed for less-established SMEs and microbusiness owners. By doing so, we will overcome this difficult period together. The central and local governments will also join forces to offer support for the livelihoods and protection of the people of Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do – areas that have been declared special disaster zones.
I suggested at the extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit that the movement of essential individuals – businesspeople, scientists, doctors – should be allowed so long as it does not undermine each country’s infectious disease prevention and control measures, and this was reflected in the Leaders’ Statement. We will continue to make diplomatic efforts so that there are no setbacks in a company’s exports and overseas activities.
Solidarity and cooperation are the only answers to surmounting the COVID-19 outbreak. When facing a tremendous fear of infectious diseases, people are likely to isolate, withdraw and succumb to the temptation to only seek ways to survive on their own, but this can never be a solution. I truly respect our people who help and encourage one another while putting “we” before “I” without any hoarding. All of you here are personally putting into practice the solutions for overcoming the COVID-19 outbreak. The Government will do everything it can to protect the people and businesses. Let us pass through the dark tunnel while illuminating each other’s paths with solidarity and cooperation. Thank you.