S. Korea announces major projects and goals of its “New Deal”

Posted on : 2020-05-08 18:25 KST Modified on : 2020-05-08 18:25 KST
Initiative mainly based on AI, healthcare data, and untact industry
Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki (second right) presides over a meeting of the emergency economic council at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on May 7. (Yonhap News)
Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki (second right) presides over a meeting of the emergency economic council at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on May 7. (Yonhap News)

The South Korean government announced three projects and 10 tasks on May 7 for the “South Korean New Deal,” including AI-based remote learning, healthcare data usage, and an increase in “untact” healthcare pilot projects. The announcement included plans for reforming the economy and creating jobs to adjust to rapidly changing social and economic conditions amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, with a focus on the untact and digital areas.

Commenting on the South Korean New Deal at a second meeting of the central emergency headquarters for economic measures on May 7, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki explained, “It focuses on digitally based projects and impactful, large-scale innovation projects that have a major synergy effect with private investment and are directly tied to improvements in productivity and competitiveness in all areas of the economy.”

Hong added that the efforts would “be pursued in a concerted manner over the next two to three years.”

More specifically, they involve reinforcement of data infrastructure for every part of the cycle from data collection to usage to establish digital infrastructure for innovation-based growth, including increased data openness in major areas such as the public, financial, and healthcare sectors. Data collection and usage is also to be expanded in the six major areas of finance, healthcare, transportation, the public sector, industry, and small business owners, including the establishment of a big data platform for transportation.

In terms of fostering untact industries, the plans include creating a support platform for AI-based remote learning and expanding existing untact healthcare pilot projects and other test projects introduced on a limited-time basis because of the outbreak, such as mobile healthcare based on public clinics and video technology for doctors to check on their patients remotely. Additionally, the plans include adopting smart management systems to improve the stability of outdated roads, railways, and other infrastructure, as well as expanding the collection, processing, and sharing of data related to social overhead capital (SOC).

Some of the plans are expected to draw objections from civic groups in connection with remote healthcare, including the increased sharing of medical data and other personal information and the expansion of healthcare pilot projects to foster the untact industry. In a briefing that day, First Vice Minister of Economy and Finance Kim Yong-beom offered a cautious stance, indicating that the “institutionalization of remote healthcare is an effort that needs to be considered along with various supplementary systems based on societal discussions over an adequate period of time.”

Fiscal investments are also to take place. Kim explained, “We intend to pursue institutional improvements along with large-scale fiscal investments in order to quickly establish a positive feedback loop between innovation-based convergence industry promotion and job creation.”

But some observers commented that the South Korean New Deal plan announced by the government includes only content related to innovation-based growth, without anything about the “inclusive growth” that represents another pillar of the economic growth the government is pursuing.

Plan doesn’t include societal risks and chances of increased inequality

“In addition to the promotion of the economy through large-scale fiscal input, the New Deal that the US pursued [in the 1930s] also includes content related to stabilizing the social safety net and improving working conditions,” noted Lee Woo-jin, a professor of economics at Korea University.

“The South Korean New Deal just looks like a repeat of the same ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ policies that have been pursued to date, without any content about dealing with the societal risks,” he said.

Lee Chang-min, a professor of economics at Hanyang University, observed, “The nature of the platform industry is such that large corporations may be able to easily increase their market control.”

“We will need to pay attention to things like the selection of businesses,” he advised. Other observers commented on the lack of content related to energy transition and climate change, which have also been areas of emphasis for the administration.

In response, Lee Yong-beom said, “Even as we restore things [to the way they were before the novel coronavirus outbreak] through our pursuit of the South Korean New Deal, we made it one of our key principles that it should not simply be a restoration of the previous stage, but an inclusive restoration to prevent the return of blind spots, poverty, and polarization in the process of overcoming the crisis.”

By Lee Jeong-hun, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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