Let me begin the 31st Cabinet Meeting.
The European Union has recently announced that it will introduce a carbon border tax as part of concrete measures to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality and that the tax will come into full effect from 2026. The EU has also imposed a practical ban on the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines from 2035. The international trade environment is shifting in ways that reinforce environmental restrictions, making them real-life issues rather than something off in the distant future.
As Korea is heavily dependent on exports and manufacturing makes up a high percentage of our industrial structure, it is imperative to devise countermeasures to minimize the toll on domestic businesses. The Government should review precisely how the shifting international trade environment will affect our industries and promptly put in place a joint public-private strategy to respond preemptively. While trying to minimize the immediate damage, we should take a proactive and engaging stance, embrace changing trends and turn this crisis into an opportunity.
If such changes are unavoidable, we have to take the initiative and face them squarely. Our target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be raised, and a step-by-step scenario for how to become carbon neutral by 2050 should be prepared at the national level. Through these steps, we have to implement the relevant plans more expeditiously and further accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. If we make the most of our strengths – having the most advanced hydrogen economy in the world as well as top-notch technologies in batteries, electric vehicles, hydrogen cars and eco-friendly ships – we will be able to further sharpen our national competitive edge, turning the crisis into an opportunity.
Next week marks the fourth anniversary of the Ministry of SMEs and Startups. The only new ministry created during my Administration, it has played a pivotal role in providing support to the self-employed and SMEs to promote their competitiveness and digital transitioning as well as more stable business management since they are the root and centerpiece of our economy. The Ministry has been at the forefront of generating new growth engines by actively nurturing innovative business ventures and startups. It has also produced many achievements, fostering hopes for our economy.
Business ventures and startups are at the center of our hopes. A second venture boom is spreading as evidenced by significant increases in the number of business ventures and related investments. The number of unicorns has dramatically risen and other innovative business ventures have grown leaps and bounds, becoming the main players that have ushered in the era of Korea’s KOSPI and tech-heavy KOSDAQ stock indexes exceeding 3,000 and 1,000 points, respectively. Digital innovations by SMEs and small- and microbusiness owners are accelerating, and SME exports are recording all-time highs – primarily thanks to products related to Korea’s response to COVID-19.
However, microbusiness owners and the self-employed are going through great hardships due to COVID-19. The Government is doing all it can to reduce their difficulties and suffering through policies focused on alleviating their commercial losses. New Hope Funds, Buttress Funds, Buttress Funds Plus and other emergency relief payments have been distributed one after another. We also plan to provide support in an extensive and broad manner through this supplementary budget in the form of Hope Recovery Funds. Taking it a step further, we will make sure that more systematic aid is offered in line with the recently enacted Act on Compensation for Commercial Losses. I hope that the Ministry of SMEs and Startups will continue to inspire dynamism within our economy and faithfully serve as a buttress for companies and microbusiness owners in need. I am grateful to the Ministry’s employees for their hard work.
I hope that the acts to be promulgated at today’s Cabinet Meeting – the Act to Promote Mutual Benefit among Neighborhood Businesses and the Act to Nurture Local SMEs – provide strength to neighborhood micro- and small business owners undergoing hardships and contribute to balanced development and the revitalization of local economies. The act on mutual benefit will allow the central and local governments to help revitalize neighborhood commercial areas and protect microbusiness owners through tax reductions, financial support and loans if commercial property owners and renters sign a mutually beneficial MOU. I hope that the system’s intent will be put to good use and spread a culture of mutually beneficial cooperation within local business districts.
The Act to Nurture Local SMEs aims to establish SME-fostering plans based on local circumstances and characteristics and support SMEs in an efficient and systematic manner. I hope that this will serve as an opportunity to revitalize competition that sparks locally led innovation and spread the Regionally Balanced New Deal. The Government will continue its policy efforts and institutional support to protect and foster local microbusiness owners and SMEs.
All of the Cheonghae Unit’s service members who have been deployed in waters off Africa are returning to Korea today. I ask you to do your utmost to ensure that they receive proper care and recover quickly. Their parents must be anxious and should also be informed of the situation to relieve their concerns. The Korean military responded well in some respects, for instance, by promptly sending military transport planes to bring all the members of the unit home. However, it is difficult to avoid criticism that our response has been insufficient and poorly thought out in the eyes of the public. While humbly accepting such criticism, I urge you to do all you can to provide necessary treatments and other support and to reassess the situation for other military units dispatched overseas. On this occasion, I also ask you to come up with safety measures for people who are in vaccination blind spots, including those working for our country’s diplomatic missions abroad. I would like you to do everything possible to implement epidemic prevention and control measures in the belief that our troops’ safety equals national security.