The Korea Herald


New minister vows to revive exports, nuclear power industry

Bang Moon-kyu visits nuclear power plant, trade port on first day of office

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : Sept. 20, 2023 - 15:17

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The newly appointed Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Bang Moon-kyu (Yonhap) The newly appointed Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Bang Moon-kyu (Yonhap)

South Korea's new Industry Minister Bang Moon-kyu on Wednesday vowed sincere efforts to expand exports for the country’s economic growth and to restore the ecosystem of nuclear power plants here swiftly.

“We will do our best to expand exports that will revive our economy. … It’s important to expand private investment to spread export momentum. For this, the government will mobilize all resources and capabilities,” Bang said in his inaugural speech.

Korea's exports fell for the 11th consecutive month in August due to weak demand for chips and petroleum products. The government has set this year’s export target at $685 billion, up by 0.2 percent from last year’s total. Yet this year’s exports are forecast to plunge by 4.5 percent on-year.

He promised to ease regulations “in a decisive manner” to attract foreign investment and global talent, while calling to solidify Korea’s supply chain of innovative technologies by strengthening cooperation with major countries, centered on its trilateral alliance with the US and Japan.

The new minister also said he will actively support the country’s cutting-edge products to lead the global market by pioneering new markets such as the Middle East, Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries and Eastern Europe.

He delivered his hope for Korea to take the lead in setting global trade norms and standards by participating in global discussions related to eco-friendliness, digitalization and environmental, social and governance initiatives.

Bang also suggested the swift restoration of the nuclear power plant ecosystem, a key task of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, as one of his major policy goals.

The Yoon administration reversed the nuclear phaseout plan of the preceding government, and is pushing to raise the country's dependence on nuclear energy.

The government seeks to raise the proportion of nuclear energy sources to 34.6 percent by 2036 from 23.4 percent in 2018, while renewable sources will be responsible for 30.6 percent of power generation in 2036 from 6.2 percent in 2018.

“I’ll pursue a realistic energy mix that balances economic feasibility, as well as carbon neutrality goals and energy supply stability,” the minister said.

“To achieve carbon neutrality and strengthen energy security, I’ll quickly complete the restoration of the ecosystem of nuclear power plants and foster them as a new energy industry, along with small modular reactors, carbon capture, utilization and storage and hydrogen," he added.

The new industry minister officially began his duties on Wednesday, as President Yoon, who is visiting the US for the United Nations General Assembly, reaffirmed Bang’s appointment a day earlier.

Later in the day, the minister visited the Saeul Nuclear Power Plant in Ulsan, as well as a port in Busan, to show his will for an early restoration of the nuclear power industry and a shift toward export-driven growth.

At the Saeul site, he announced his plans to make advance payments to nuclear power companies as well as establish an export guarantee support system and special financial funds. He also pledged to expand investment tax credits.

Upon his visit to the port in Busan, the minister vowed to provide up to 182 trillion won ($136 billion) in trade and export finance by the end of the year and increase short-term export performance by hosting global exhibitions for machinery parts, medical devices and beauty products.