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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 29)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:05 April 29, 2021

Rebound to pre-crisis level
Korea achieves faster-than-expected economic recovery

The Korean economy grew 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier ― 1.6 percent up from previous quarter ― rebounding to its pre-COVID-19 level. According to the Bank of Korea (BOK), Tuesday, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 470.8 trillion won ($423.2 billion) during the period, the highest since the fourth quarter of 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. At that time Korea's GDP stood at 468.8 trillion won.

Private consumption rose 1.1 percent, leading the expansion, as exports growth slowed to 1.9 percent compared to 5.4 percent during the fourth quarter of 2020. But overseas shipments will likely pick up steam during the remainder of the year, riding on an expected recovery in the global economy.

It is encouraging that the nation registered an increase in the area of consumption, exports and facility investment, a turnaround from last year when only exports rose. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, who is also acting prime minister, offered positive prospects on these, saying the economy will likely continue such growth, exceeding the previously estimated 3.2 percent.

The BOK even forecast the country will be able to achieve 4 percent growth should the quarterly rates stand at the 0.7 to 0.8 percent level during the remaining quarters. This will be the highest since 2010 when the economy grew 6.8 percent. The economy has been recovering at the fastest pace among the world's 10 major economies.

It is heartening to see the economy on a rapid recovery track after effectively coping with the difficulties stemming from the pandemic. It is meaningful as the recent rebound has been the result of concerted efforts by all economic players ― businesses, households and the government ― to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. President Moon Jae-in also said the economy has entered a recovery phase, escaping the dark and long tunnel created by the coronavirus.

Despite the encouraging signs, there are still negative factors looming over the economic recovery such as the widening bipolarization of wealth and snowballing household debt, for instance, in the wake of the pandemic. Government measures should be focused on creating more decent jobs for young people.

Small business owners and the self-employed are still suffering hardships under the pandemic. The administration should concentrate on narrowing the social discrepancies resulting from the coronavirus crisis. It needs to provide more assistance to the underprivileged who have been struggling amid the lingering pandemic.

Rapid vaccination is also necessary to consolidate the fast economic recovery. The Moon administration has been pledging that it will realize the goal of herd immunity by the end of November after completing the vaccination of 70 percent of the population by September. It should abide by this pledge as failure will deal a blow to the economy and dampen expectations for a fast recovery.
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