(ATTN: UPDATES with details on retirement age issue in last 5 paras, minor edits throughout)
SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in voiced concern Tuesday about the negative effects of the coronavirus epidemic on South Korea's job creation drive and called for bold regulatory reform and investment incentives for private firms.
He also said it is time to begin a policy review in earnest on extending the retirement age in response to a sharp reduction in the working-age population, in remarks ahead of a Cheong Wa Dae session to receive a report from the labor, agriculture and environment ministries on their major policies this year.
Chances are high, Moon said, that the viral outbreak will weigh on the conditions for creating jobs, with manufacturing, tourism and service industries tied with China already affected.
"Above all, it is important to increase employment creation in the civilian sector. It is companies, after all, that make decent jobs," he stressed. "(The government) will have to focus more efforts on invigorating the civilian sector with the public sector serving as priming water."
He stressed the need for injecting vigor into the manufacturing field through the expansion of regulatory reform and investment incentives and raise its productivity and competitiveness.
Critics have accused the liberal Moon administration of pouring taxpayers' money into projects to create public jobs in order to improve numerical data.
Having entered the latter half of his five-year presidency, Moon has set "tangible results" as his policy motto.
He called for tangible fruits from the job creation campaign as well, especially for the youth and those in their 40s.
He reaffirmed the governments' resolve to nurture the bio, future car and non-memory chip businesses as South Korea's new growth engines.
He also held out expectations that many new jobs will be created in the environmental and agricultural sectors.
"The green industry, which realizes economic and environmental values, will become a more important element in national competitiveness, going forward," he said, instructing the related authorities to make aggressive public investments and lay the groundwork for private ones.
A Cheong Wa Dae official later told reporters that South Korea's retirement age was not discussed in the closed-door session that followed the president's remarks.
"There was no report in connection with that (from the labor ministry)," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the background of Moon's comments on the subject, the official added he would not comment on the basis of "speculation."
The idea of lifting the official age of retirement from 60 to 65 is not new in South Korea.
Still, many say it is premature to do so, noting that youth jobless rates remain relatively high and employment flexibility has yet to be enhanced. The ministry also said earlier it should be a "long-term task."
BTS member Jimin's 'hanbok' suit up for auction
BTS enters Billboard Hot 100 with new Japanese single
BTS to stream concerts in weekend Bang Bang Con event
(LEAD) Seoul mayor pushes for introduction of self-testing kits, extending hours for small businesses
BLACKPINK amasses 60 mln subscribers on YouTube: agency
Number of peak concurrent viewers on BTS online event surpasses 2.7 mln: agency
(LEAD) New virus cases in 600s for 4th day as sporadic infections continue
S. Korea to start vaccinations of care workers, airline crews
Vaccine supply glitch threatening to take inoculation scheme off track
(LEAD) Kerry: Japan's coordination with IAEA is 'key' to ensuring safety in Fukushima water release