South Korea’s president is struggling to “democratise” the economy

Oct 18, 2018

CHO IMHO is angry. Perched on an enormous black leather chair, the director of South Korea’s association of small businesses throws up his arms in despair as he discusses the government’s economic policy. Mr Cho reserves particular ire for the recent increase in the minimum wage to 7,530 won ($6.65) an hour, 16% more than it was a year ago. The leap is the centrepiece of the government’s plan to revive the economy by boosting the incomes of the poor; further hikes are planned. Mr Cho claims many of the firms he represents are considering shutting down. Others have shed staff. “It’s crazy, a disaster,” he says.

Mr Cho is a proud right-winger from Daegu, a nest of South Korean conservatism. His aversion to the policies of the left-leaning president, Moon Jae-in, is perhaps not surprising. But in recent months a spate of disappointing employment data and loud protests from businesses have stirred unease within the government. The finance minister, for...

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