(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks in 3rd para, paras 5-7 and last 5 paras; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in voiced concern Monday about the economic woes facing South Korea and emphasized the need to expand the government's support for corporate investment, especially for the growth of high-tech startups.
He also asked the National Assembly, embroiled in a political dogfight over reform bills, to approve 6.7 trillion-won (US$5.8 billion) supplementary budgets that his administration is seeking in a bid to help revitalize the economy, tackle air pollution and recover from a recent wildfire in Gangwon Province.
"The faster-than-expected worsening of external conditions, including a slowdown in the world economy, is posting a threat to our economy," the president said in a regular meeting with his senior presidential aides at Cheong Wa Dae. He pointed out the vulnerability of the economy, which is driven by exports, not just domestic demand.
The competitiveness of major local industries has been weakened, as "a lot of mountains" lie ahead to overcome in efforts to inject vigor into investment, exports and consumption, Moon added.
His remarks came amid growing alarm over Asia's fourth-largest economy. It contracted 0.3 percent in the first quarter of this year from three months earlier mainly due to a slump in exports and facility investment, according to the Bank of Korea. The reading marks the country's worst performance in almost a decade.
Moon said that a rebound in civilian investment is important and hailed recent announcements by SK hynix Inc. to spend 120 trillion won on a semiconductor cluster in Yongin, south of Seoul, and by Samsung Electronics Co. to invest 133 trillion won expand its non-memory and foundry business.
Moon also signaled that his liberal government will be more active in promoting investment in the private sector.
"The government's investment takes a large share invigorating the economy," Moon said. "Most of all, it's important to create future growth engines through new industries."
He added that the government plans to concentrate efforts on nurturing three industries: system semiconductors, bio-health and future vehicles.
For promoting an innovative and dynamic economy, there's also a need to place emphasis on creating "the second venture boom," he said, referring to high-tech industries.
"The aggressive role of budgets is more desperate than at any other time" to counter the downside risks in the real economy and promote domestic consumption, he said.
He expressed regret that rifts among political parties are deepening at a time when the economy is at a critical juncture.
He stressed the importance of taking timely action to deal with economic challenges.
"As the handling of (a bill on) extra budgets is delayed, burdens grow for people's livelihoods and the related economy," Moon said, expressing hope that the parliament will endorse the government's budget plan as early as possible.
A Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the economy is the keyword of the president's activity this week.
Yoon's outreach to Southeast Asia keeps China in the loop
Allies' defense chiefs highlight watertight alliance based on full extended deterrence against N. Korean threats
(News Focus) Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Police under fire for lax response to emergency calls hours before Itaewon crush
Role of administrative authorities questioned in Itaewon disaster