Posted : 2013-06-25 17:13
Updated : 2013-06-25 17:13

Gov't gets friendlier to chaebol amid uncertainty

By Na Jeong-ju

Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok
The government is trying to enlist the help of the business community to overcome the negative economic outlook for the country.

As macroeconomic conditions remain uncertain due to a possible exit from quantitative easing by the United States, the administration appears to be shifting its stance toward family-owned conglomerates.

Strategy and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said Tuesday that corporate investment and employment are crucial to get the country out of the low-growth trap.

"I expect today's meeting will serve as a chance to have sincere and productive discussions that could lead to preemptive investment and expanded employment, eventually cutting the low-growth trend," Hyun said during a meeting with the heads of the country's major business lobby groups.

He noted the government and business community need to cooperate like "two wheels on a cart." He called for more investment from companies, saying he will make efforts to create an investment-friendly environment.

Business leaders voiced concerns over worsening market conditions. They also called for the government to refrain from pushing measures that could excessively restrict overall corporate activity.

"Companies should be helped to regain their self confidence. They need an improved management environment. Investment sentiment will improve if the legislative move to excessively restrain business activities is stopped," said Huh Chang-soo, chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries.

Early this year, the government and politicians took a hard-line stance on unfair business practices among conglomerates in the name of economic democratization. President Park Geun-hye said she will rein in chaebol's excessive business expansion in a bid to build a fairer relationship between small and large firms.

"It's not a good idea to strengthen regulations against conglomerates because they play an important role in the country's economic growth," said a spokesman from the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Instead, the government needs to ease regulations, expand tax benefits for corporations and build a more flexible labor environment to boost their growth potential."

Meanwhile, Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) Governor Choi Soo-hyun said he will make efforts to ease regulations for credit card firms to help them weather difficult business conditions.

"We'll consider loosening regulations for credit card firms so that they can innovate themselves and find new sources of profit," Choi said ahead of a breakfast meeting with the heads of major card issuers.

Card firms have asked the FSS to ease rules for providing cash rebates and card points to users so that they can attract more customers. They also called for shortening of the inspection procedure for possible violations.

"The problem is that they are being ‘overregulated' because the government considers card firms as one of the main causes of growing household debt. That's a big threat to the card industry," an industry source said.

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