The Korea Herald


'Making economy more dynamic a top priority': finance minister nominee

By Choi Ji-won

Published : Dec. 5, 2023 - 18:17

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Finance Minister nominee Choi Sang-mok speaks during a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday, following his nomination by the presidential office on Monday. (Yonhap) Finance Minister nominee Choi Sang-mok speaks during a press conference held in Seoul on Tuesday, following his nomination by the presidential office on Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's finance minister nominee on Tuesday said strengthening economic stabilization efforts for citizens' livelihoods while continuing the government's drive for reform would be the key priorities under his leadership.

Choi Sang-mok, the nominee for the country’s top economic policymaker, made the remark during his first gathering with the local press Tuesday, following his nomination by the presidential office Monday.

The former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs described the current state of the local economy as being in its "last cold snap," with signs of progress evident in some parts, while others are taking time to catch up.

"Recovery is evident through many economic indices, thanks to the right direction in policies and implementation by this administration," the ministerial nominee said. "But potential risks remain, and people are going through rough days due to concerns such as prolonged price hikes and high interest rates."

Amid high oil prices and rising costs for some farm goods, the country's consumer price growth hovered above 3 percent for the fourth consecutive month in November after hitting a 25-month low of 2.3 percent in July.

The finance minister nominee said that while the economy may be out of the deepest pit, the complicated part of inflation control begins now.

"This time, price hikes are rooted in the domestic supply system, where different manufacturers and suppliers may pass along the (added) cost (to consumers)," he explained, adding, "It now depends on the efforts of all economic players, and this may take time."

He also underscored building a "dynamic economy" as a main goal under President Yoon Suk Yeol's administration, with structural reform pursued as a means in the process.

"The economy must be robust in order for the business cycle to flow, for new jobs to be created and ultimately, to seek growth," Choi said.

Structural overhauls such as regulation easing, support for science technology and educational reform should be carried out to bring innovation into the economy, he noted.

"The law must change, and to do this, people of interest must forsake their vested rights to form a social consensus. Nothing can be achieved just by the law. The culture and behaviors must also follow suit," he added.

Choi refrained from commenting in detail about other regulatory directions, but hinted he would continue Yoon's efforts in tackling issues related to citizens' livelihoods internally while seeking to expand supply chains overseas.

The veteran economic bureaucrat also called for a shift in approach to building global economic ties, especially in light of Korea's declining export dependence on China.

"Whether it is China, Japan or the US, I believe it is important we set the relationship based on where we place our national benefit," he said. "Our relationship with China may have changed, and we must make efforts to strengthen our competitiveness and turn this into a beneficial opportunity for us."

He also touched on the issue of investment in research and development, vowing to expand the budget for local researchers.

Choi formerly served as senior presidential secretary for economic affairs when Yoon was first inaugurated in May 2022.

His appointment will be subject to a parliamentary hearing. Once appointed, he will succeed Choo Kyung-ho as the minister of finance and economy and deputy prime minister.

"People divide (Yoon's) first and second economic teams, but it is all the same team under the Yoon administration. The overall policy direction will be maintained, and it is only the situations that differ, to which we will respond accordingly," he said.