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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 18)

All News 09:15 April 18, 2020

Riding out crisis
Economic rescue should be top post-election goal

One of the biggest topics in the past general election was how well the Moon Jae-in administration had responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. But the election is now over, and this is an old story. It is time to patch things up and unite together to ride out this unprecedented crisis.

Huge challenges lie ahead for South Korea even though it has been dealing with the outbreak fairly well. Most of all, the economy is in dire straits. In a monthly economic assessment report, dubbed Green Book, which was released Friday, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic are still expanding, painting a bleaker picture of the Korean economy compared to its March report. The ministry said economic sentiment has contracted and there are growing risks for the real economy and financial markets as the pandemic is wreaking havoc on consumption, exports and the job market.

Falling overseas demand is particularly painful for export-oriented Korea Inc. China, Korea's largest trade partner, said Friday its gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 6.8 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, the worst performance since 1992 when official releases of quarterly GDP were started. All major economies are in the same situation, and things may worsen further as the continued global spread of the new coronavirus may add downward pressure for the time being.

A looming job crisis is another grave challenge. Statistics Korea said the country lost 195,000 jobs in March ― the sharpest monthly decline since May 2009 when it lost 240,000 jobs in the middle of the global financial crisis. In particular, the coronavirus outbreak has hit hard temporary and daily employees, with the number of temporary workers plunging by 593,000, the biggest monthly drop since the government began compiling such data in January 1989. A social safety net is urgently needed for these people. The government said it will unveil a package of measures aimed at stabilizing the job market next week. The measures should be centered on protecting more vulnerable people, including young adults, the elderly and women.

President Moon, speaking about his ruling Democratic Party of Korea's landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, said Thursday he felt a sense of heavy responsibility before he could feel happiness about the results. He said the results represented the people's eagerness to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, so all members of the ruling camp should feel more responsible and work more humbly. This is not just about containing the spread of the coronavirus. If Moon was right, the government and the ruling party have the responsibility to resolve pending economic problems and make Korea Inc. stronger.

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