|Speech by Minister Lee Youn Ho at a Press Briefing with Foreign Correspondents in Seoul|
Opening remarks on the occasion of the Year-End Press Briefing
by Minister Lee Youn Ho
Seoul Foreign Correspondents` Club
Dec. 8, 2008 Seoul, Korea
I am very honored to be here. It is always a great pleasure to meet with members of the press. We appreciate your efforts to present a fair and balanced view of Korea to the world.
We are facing an unprecedented global financial crisis—with far-reaching ramifications in all areas of economic activity. As such, we are putting top priority on ensuring stability in the financial and foreign exchange markets—with funds to aid liquidity, interest rate adjustments, and currency swap agreements. We are also looking to increase government spending and reduce taxes to stimulate the economy. All in all, we are confident we will be able to overcome current difficulties and emerge stronger than before.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy is responsible for the real economy and with such turmoil in the global markets, it is a particularly testing time for us. Nonetheless, we are cautiously optimistic for three reasons.
First, Korea has built up a strong and diverse industrial portfolio—shipbuilding number one, display number one, cell phones number two—among many others. The strength of these and other core industries will help Korea weather the tough economic climate.
Second, related to the first point is that Korean industries have gained a strong hold in the global arena—among both the developed and emerging economies. And lastly, the experience we gained from the Asian financial crisis will help us journey the long road ahead. We underwent painful restructuring and emerged stronger, better and more efficient. It was also a chance for us to gain the upperhand in the exciting IT sector. Then as now, we will utilize our ability to reshape difficult challenges into rewarding opportunities.
In response to some of the more immediate problems, the government will arrange for sufficient trade financing, help otherwise healthy SMEs overcome cash flow problems, and provide incentives such as lower taxes to boost domestic consumption.
For the long term, Korea has three main strategies for future growth.
Korea`s core industrial base will continue to be a big component to the country`s economic well-being. As we look to the future, we aim to develop new technologies and methods in potentially lucrative fields-- some two dozen items. These growth engines will push Korea to the next level of industrial prowess. For example, our auto industry is among the top 5 in the world. We would like to see this sector explore the exciting world of hybrids and fuel cells. We are taking traditional strong points and pushing the boundaries for future growth—LEDs, robots, and even mobile harbors.
When we say `green growth,` there are two main points I would like to focus on. One, this is Korea`s commitment to achieving sustainable growth with priority placed on a low-carbon, environmentally friendly perspective. All aspects of life and business will take on the green perspective—cutting down on energy consumption by increasing energy efficiency. That will involve technological innovation and a public awareness to reduce our carbon footprint in all possible ways.
Another aspect of our green growth strategy will focus on developing the green industries including the new and renewables. That will involve an ambitious push to implement R&D initiatives, commercialization of new technologies, and efforts to foster market conditions conducive to such innovations.
The financial crisis is not limited to any one country or region. The difficulties affect everyone and the solution will only come when everyone is involved. As we have recently seen at the APEC summit in Peru, all of us are in the same boat.
That is why we must refrain from protectionist policies regarding trade. Korea aims to be an active global trading partner. We would like to see more free trade agreements with our trading neighbors. On my recent trip to Latin America, I found a very enthusiastic response to our delegation. I believe we will be able to find many fruitful relationships to be made in the future. We are also in favor of the multilateral DDA as an instrument to break down barriers to free trade.
A decade ago when the Asian financial crisis hit, I headed a private research institute and we worked on ways for a swift recovery in the private sector. Now at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, I find the most important factor in these difficult times is the strong confidence of the Korean people-- the market, investors, businesses, and the government.
I am in constant contact with the business community, especially with those running small and medium enterprises. Yes, they do tell me of their difficulties but at the same time, I do sense their strong will and confidence to succeed—the true spirit of entrepreneurship—and from that positive note, I am very encouraged.
With the holiday season fast approaching, I offer my best wishes to you and your family. I hope there will be peace, good health and happiness for all of you.
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