Deputy Prime Minister and Strategy and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok speaks during a recent interview in his office at the Korea Deposit Insurance Corp. in Eulji-ro, Seoul. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Yi Whan-woo
Deputy Prime Minister and Strategy and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok has called for a two-track policy in building an integrated resort to house a casino for locals, saying it is important to persuade people first in order for such a plan to succeed.
Using this approach, Hyun said the government should build a hotel first and then a casino.
"The economic effects of the integrated resort should be a factor to be taken into consideration," he said during an interview with The Korea Times. "It is important to check whether the resort can create jobs."
Integrated resorts have a wide variety of leisure and entertainment attractions that include theme parks, a casino, shopping centers, restaurants, hotels and convention halls.
The concept has gained attention among Asian governments after Singapore and Macau successfully boosted their tourism industries following the establishment of such resorts in recent years. In Korea, however, it faces obstacles because Koreans are prohibited from entering casinos except for one in Gangwon Province.
"Including a casino after building a hotel first can be a solution to overcome negative public sentiment," Hyun said. "For instance, the first impression that people generally come up with when they think of the Sheraton Walkerhill is the hotel, not the casino."
He spoke about a case in Singapore where debate over allowing locals into casinos arose because of people's concerns.
Hyun, however, insisted that building a hotel first will change public sentiment toward building casinos.
In terms of taxing foreign enterprises, he said the country should adhere to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) tax regulations.
The followings are excerpts from the interview.
Q What do you think about Abenomics?
A During the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington D.C. in September, a number of participants were concerned that Abeoomics could undermine Japan's growth in the long term. The IMF lowered Japan's annual growth rate for next year due to concerns that Abenomics could result in a rise in national debt.
Q Foreign investors in Korea are concerned about the government's regulations in the finance industry.
A Korea eased its financial regulations up until 2008 in an effort to boost related sectors. The global financial crisis led the country to monitor its banking sector closely, and I think it's now time to ease the regulations while continuing to keep an eye on the industry to make sure that it can grow and generate profits for investors.
In order to become an international hub in the finance industry, we should focus on what we can do best.
It's important that the finance industry leads to "destructive creation," as coined by Joseph Schumpeter, instead of "creative destruction" which can ruin the market. The domestic market has been leaning toward the latter and it's time to make a change.
Q Please explain about the government's plan to achieve an employment rate of 70 percent.
A Our plan this time is based on what has been accomplished by Germany and the Netherlands, countries that actually achieved employment rates as high as 70 percent. We've come up with measures to boost investment in order to achieve our goals and I think these are very realistic.
The previous employment targets focused on creating part-time workers with poor welfare but our plan has a higher quality, as it focuses on lowering working time.
Q The statistics provided by the government tend to be different from what people perceive in real life. What are the best ways to improve them?
A We have had discussions on related issues such as the consumer price index, employment rate and income. And we'll revise some of the indices and come up with improved versions so that people can easily understand the statistics.
Q Entrepreneurs say the government's tax policy for corporations is too rigid so they find it difficult to focus on investment.
A The government is inspecting large conglomerates, and the self-employed with high incomes, along with entrepreneurs running firms in offshore tax havens. Those who pay their taxes faithfully, as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises should not be too concerned about the inspection and we'll make sure to create a favorable environment for them.