(ATTN: UPDATES with details)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday announced a massive relief package, worth 40 trillion won (US$32 billion), for South Korea's key industries disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The funds are meant to help them weather the crisis, which Moon characterized as the worst since the 1997 financial meltdown, and to help maintain employment.
Moon also unveiled an additional job protection scheme that involves spending 10 trillion won to cushion the COVID-19 impact on the country's job market.
Hard-hit key industries include aviation, oil refinery, shipping, shipbuilding and car production, the backbone of the country's employment.
The president then instructed his economic team to prepare swiftly for the launch of a task force on the Korean-version New Deal revolving around major national infrastructure projects.
"Now is the beginning stage of a crisis," he said, presiding over the fifth and last weekly emergency economic council session on the economic and financial fallout of COVID-19.
He pointed out that core industries are at risk and companies are starting to find it difficult to ride out the predicament with the government's provisional liquidity supply.
The government will increase the size of the emergency finance relief scheme to 135 trillion from the 100 trillion won decided in previous emergency economic council sessions, according to Moon.
He also said the government will play a leading role in creating jobs, adding that half a million will be offered, with many for youths.
Moon said companies here are facing an "employment cold wave" just around the corner.
"Employment shock may come more extensively and for a longer time, which we have not experienced," Moon warned.
The government will make sure to shield those key industries at any cost with "strong determination," he said.
It plans to give 500,000 won each to 930,000 freelancers and other workers who are not covered by the state employment insurance, for three months.
Starting next week, meanwhile, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki is scheduled to chair a meeting of top economic policymakers in response to coronavirus damages on Asia's fourth-largest economy.
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