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According to Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea,
The heads of foreign companies operating in South Korea, in their first meeting with President Moon Jae-in on Thursday, were united in their call for actions to ease the country’s notoriously rigid regulations.
About 100 government and business officials were invited, including 65 chiefs of foreign corporations, for an open discussion with the president at the Blue House, the first such meeting since Moon’s two years in office.
Ingrid Dreschel, chair of the Korean German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and CEO of Bayer Korea Ltd., welcomed the shortened workweek but called for working hour flexibility in the digital sector.
In July 2018, the country reduced the maximum working hours from 68 to 52 hours per week in an effort to revamp its workaholic culture. While exemption was granted to some industries, like transportation and healthcare, many businesses bristled at the sweeping enforcement of the new law, saying it failed to acknowledge the working conditions of different sectors.
Patrick Yoon, country manager at Visa International Asia Pacific, touted Korea’s advanced digital infrastructure but talked of the difficulties of operating in Korea due to various regulations that are in conflict with global standards.
Dimitris Psillakis, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea, concurred. “While European businesses think of Korea as a vital partner, doing business in the country is still a challenge,” he said, stressing the importance of complying with international standards.
Moon vowed to increase government efforts to lift regulations while urging stronger cooperation from foreign companies, saying “we’re all on the same boat.” He also commented on the economic potential of a denuclearized Korea and how a peaceful Korean Peninsula would make it “one of the most attractive markets in the world.”
Tomoyuki Moriyama, who heads the Seoul Japan Club, called for improvement in the deteriorating relations between the two neighboring countries. “Having friendly ties between Korea and Japan is not only important for both countries but for the region and the world at large,” he said.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have quickly chilled in recent months following a naval spat involving a Japanese military aircraft flying dangerously close to one of Korea’s warships. This aggravated the already heated tensions arising from Korea’s Supreme Court rulings last year that allowed citizens to sue Japanese firms for reparations on forced labor during World War II.
Moriyama also urged the Korean government to take strong measures to tackle air pollution. “One of the biggest factors that undermine Korea’s appeal as an investment destination is the fine dust problem,” he said. Recent data shows that Korea has the second-worst air quality among advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development after Turkey.
By Oh Soo-hyun and Kim Hyo-jin
Copyrights Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea (March 29, 2019)