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(LEAD) Moon welcomes minimum wage hike, vows support for small firms

2017/07/17 15:25

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(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks, more details in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in hailed the scheduled increase in the minimum wage Monday, calling it a great move toward people-oriented growth and the right to live as humans.

"It will mark a great turning point for opening the era of people-oriented growth by reducing the extreme income gap," he said while meeting with his top presidential secretaries, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

Moon's remarks came after the tripartite commission of the government, labor and management reached an agreement over the weekend to increase the minimum wage to 7,530 won (US$6.68) per hour in 2018, up 16.4 percent from the current 6,470 won per hour.

The president has promised to increase the minimum wage to 10,000 won per hour before his five-year term ends in May 2022.

"A minimum wage of 10,000 won does not only represent the hourly wage, but the right to live like humans," he said.

The move, also an election pledge of the new president, however, also faces strong criticism from businesses, especially small and medium-sized firms, who argue the proposed wage hike for next year alone may force many to shut down their business.

Moon noted his election pledge also included additional support for small and medium-sized businesses.

"Now, it is time for me to keep that promise," he said, telling his aides to mobilize all available means to help minimize a possible rise in costs for smaller firms.

"I want you to pay special attention to those who may have the most difficulties in coping with the rise in the minimum wage with all available policy measures," the president said.

Moon's weekly meeting with his top aides also followed the prosecution's raid of a top defense firm, Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI), last week on corruption allegations.

The president insisted corruption in the defense industry constituted an act of benefiting the enemy.

"I believe defense corruption is not just corruption, but an act of benefiting the enemy that threatens national security," he said at the meeting.

The president said he planned to reinstitutionalize a trans-government anti-corruption meeting that was first introduced in 2004.

KAI, the country's sole aircraft developer and manufacturer, is alleged to have made an illicit profit of up to 24 billion won by manipulating its development costs in a government project for a new utility helicopter, the Surion.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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