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(LEAD) Gov't to expand support for small merchants ahead of holiday

All Headlines 10:42 January 22, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- The government will expand its financial support, such as loan guarantees, for small merchants and the underprivileged to help spur spending ahead of Lunar New Year's Day, it said Tuesday.

The government is expected to extend around 35.2 trillion won (US$31.2 billion) of the holiday financial support, up some 6 trillion won from the previous year. This year's holiday falls on Feb. 5.

The government usually expands fund injections ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and Chuseok, the South Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving Day, in a bid to stabilize consumer prices. Food prices tend to rise as food purchases soar to prepare holiday dishes.

The decision came after senior officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, the government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) held their first joint meeting of the new year.

"The participants decided to expand the amount of support in an effort to stabilize consumer prices and help smaller firms and the underprivileged," Hong Ik-pyo, spokesman of the DP, told a press briefing.

They also agreed to expand loan guarantees to smaller firms and merchants and provide job funds and other state-sponsored support to beneficiaries as early as possible.

The meeting came as President Moon Jae-in pledged to make "tangible" outcomes with his embattled income-led growth policy this year amid an economic slowdown and sluggish job growth.

DP chairman Lee Hae-chan said the party will make efforts to handle key bills on the economy, including a proposal aimed at supporting smaller merchants, during an extraordinary parliamentary session in February.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told reporters that the government will do its best to help the Korean economy grow at a pace similar to that of last year.

The South Korean economy grew 2.7 percent on-year in 2018, slowing from a 3.1 percent growth in the year before and marking the slowest growth in six years, according to an advance estimate by the Bank of Korea.

Many forecasts have suggested slowing growth in 2019.

Kim Soo-hyun, senior secretary to the president for policy, vowed efforts to bolster the economy as downside risks on the global economy are growing.

Senior officials from the presidential office, the government and the ruling party gather for their first joint meeting of the new year to discuss ways to improve people's livelihoods on Jan. 22, 2019. (Yonhap)


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