In connection with today’s agenda, Senior Research Fellow Chang Jiyeun of the Korea Labor Institute is joining us as an outside expert. Please greet her with applause. Thank you for being with us.
The COVID-19 crisis has made the final stretches of the year much more difficult. It is dealing a devastating blow to not only the people’s lives and safety but also the economy and their livelihoods. While stemming the spread of COVID-19, the Government will also do everything possible to protect their livelihoods and revive the economy with an extraordinary sense of responsibility.
The Government intends to make safeguarding those who suffer difficulties earlier and to a greater extent than others the starting point for every task. We are planning on offering more than one million emergency jobs directly to provide a boost to the vulnerable who find it difficult to secure employment. I urge everyone to ensure that relevant budget spending will be front-loaded at the outset of the New Year. It is in the same vein that Korea’s unemployment allowance, the national employment support program, will be implemented for the first time next year. I call on you to make thorough preparations in advance so that financial support for young people and low-income, vulnerable households will be swiftly disbursed as scheduled.
Support for small- and microbusiness owners and the self-employed is particularly urgent. Recently, they are being hit hardest by the worsening COVID-19 situation and enhanced epidemic prevention and control measures. In addition to existing assistance programs, budget funds for the 3rd emergency relief payments worth 3 trillion won, which were passed at the National Assembly, should be promptly executed in a way tailored to meet the different needs of the people. To this end, a disbursement plan should be formulated as soon as possible, and the pace of payments should be quickened as well. I also urge everyone to redouble efforts to provide government-backed financing to promote the Good Landlord Campaign and expand tax credits and financial support to help ease the burden of COVID-19-induced operating costs.
However, we should not settle for these efforts alone but rather agonize over how to take yet another step forward. It is excruciating indeed to be asked whether it is fair to have to continue to make rent payments while enduring sharp declines in sales due to government epidemic prevention guidelines that restrict or suspend business operations. At the time of a national crisis when suffering should be shared among everyone, we must not force the vulnerable to endure sacrifices alone. Instead, we have to pool our wisdom and seek ways for the whole of society to jointly shoulder the weight of suffering and for the Government to expand its role and responsibilities.
Despite this difficult situation with domestic demand and consumption contracting sharply due to the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent strengthening of epidemic prevention and control, it is fortunate to see our economy faring well from a macroeconomic point of view. All the more significantly, this puts the Korean economy’s future in a positive light and raises expectations for a quick economic recovery.
Exports, above everything, are leading the rapid economic recovery. Compared with last year, average daily exports turned back into positive territory in October, and both the daily averages and monthly total recorded positive figures in November. On top of this, we are seeing continued strong increases in December. Such key items as semiconductors, passenger cars, auto parts and wireless communication devices are leading the increase, and the new three fastest-growing industries – system semiconductors, future cars and biohealth – are also showing strong exports, brightening the future outlook. In particular, SMEs contributing a greater share of our exports is also a very meaningful and positive phenomenon.
The upturns in stock prices – which reflect the current performance and future value of businesses – are also an objective indicator that gives us hope for the future of our economy. KOSPI and KOSDAQ are both recording all-time highs, and there are even hopeful expectations that the era of KOSPI exceeding the 3,000-point mark could start. This assessment that our economy will recover and rebound quickly is shared by both domestic and foreign investors as well as markets. This also reflects both the high competitiveness of Korean companies and expectations that their performance will improve.
In particular, it is very encouraging that business ventures have grown into the main players in the stock market. The fact that these companies are making strides at KOSDAQ and KOSPI demonstrates the spread of the second venture boom. They now number 13 among the top 20 firms in terms of market capitalization in the KOSDAQ market, accounting for 65 percent. There are four such companies in KOSPI’s top 20. All of these are leading biohealth and ICT firms that are drawing public attention amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the second venture boom is further spreading amid the COVID-19 crisis clearly proves the dynamism of our economy.
Under the circumstances in which domestic demand and spending are contracting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has to further strengthen measures to boost economic vitality, including exports and investment. We also have no choice but to facilitate a fast and strong economic recovery through these measures for now. In particular, all-out support must be provided so that exports are not blocked by financial problems or transportation shortages. I ask you to make efforts to actively resolve export-related difficulties experienced by SMEs and middle-market companies and provide related support, such as contact-free means to search for a new consumer base. Support measures are also needed to counteract exports losing profitability due to the Korean won’s strength.
Investments in the future should never be stopped. We will have to accelerate the execution of fiscal spending and public investment as much as possible. In particular, I ask you to speed up the supply of government-backed financing and the expansion of financial assistance to invest in the future to create growth engines and jobs. This is aimed at the Republic of Korea’s great transformation, particularly through the Korean New Deal and 2050 Carbon Neutrality.