|President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hands with Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong before the start of a meeting with leaders of the country's leading businesses at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) headquarters, downtown Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
President Moon Jae-in thanked the country's top-tier businesses including Samsung, Hyundai and Lotte for assisting coronavirus-hit domestic suppliers, saying this would help local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reduce any financial risks, as the 2019-nCoV virus outbreak spreads.
"I appreciate your efforts to encourage local SMEs by providing them with necessary financial assistance as the coronavirus spreads," Moon said at the start of a session with major business leaders at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) headquarters in downtown Seoul.
Cheong Wa Dae press pool reports said "This is a desired model for joint growth with SMEs. Samsung and Hyundai have decided to provide them with some trillion won-level emergency assistance. It's a big plus for them."
A few days before Thursday's meeting, Samsung Electronics said it has joined with Samsung's technology affiliates — Samsung Display, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung SDI, Samsung C&T and Samsung SDS — to offer up to 2.6 trillion won ($2.1 billion) to local suppliers affected by the virus as they had temporarily been forced to close their manufacturing facilities.
The specifics of the Samsung assistance includes suppliers receiving early cash payments for orders and being eligible for loans from Samsung, either with no- or low- interest rates at below-commercial bank rates.
Closed ports and delayed shipments from China are not only affecting Chinese workers and companies but also their trading partners overseas who depend on the supplies to keep their businesses operating, officials said.
Moon also praised the country's retail giant Lotte's decision to donate 300 million won to the Korean Red Cross, which recently joined forces with Chinese authorities in battling the coronavirus.
"Lotte Group's decision to offer financial assistance to the Korean Red Cross also had a positive impact in terms of strengthening ties between South Korea and China," he said. "I want thank Lotte for its decision to support communities in China, including citizens of Wuhan."
Key business chiefs attended the meeting that included Samsung's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, CJ Chairman Lee Jae-yong, LG Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and KCCI Chairman Park Yong-maan.
Moon remained positive that the country will soon control the virus epidemic and asked the business leaders to back the government's plans in tackling the issue. Some say there is a long way to go before the outbreak can be contained.
"Job data has improved earlier than expected and we are seeing some positive signs in terms of job hiring thanks to a steady establishment of venture startups. It's so regrettable that the occurrence of the 2019-nCoV case is impacting the economy," Moon told the leaders, adding the virus would be eradicated "soon." 2019-nCoV is the virus' official name.
"From that standpoint, it's quite timely and a good model to see that South Korean auto parts suppliers have resumed their operations earlier than expected," Moon said. "That was the result of collaboration between the South Korean government and Chinese authorities."
He said the government will be quick to support businesses on several fronts to ensure an early return to normal business activities.
"Various financial assistance plans are prepared and ready for retail and tourism businesses, the business segments heavily affected by the virus," the President said.
Moon praised the efforts of leading South Korean businesses to develop unique products and to speed up initiatives for the localization of components and materials crucial to manufacturing.
"LG Electronics' rollable TV received the best innovation prize in (this year's) consumer electronics show," he said.
"Samsung Electronics is advancing its technology relating to artificial intelligence (AI) by introducing the AI project Neon.
"Hyundai Motor's aerial mobility technology was impressive to see and SK is leading the way in parts localization as it recently completed factories to manufacture components which were heavily imported."
The President has stressed many times the importance of Korean conglomerates' continued contribution to help local SMEs enhance their competitiveness in the production of industrial materials, component parts and other technological equipment.