trade minister-corporate investment

SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new trade minister called on companies on Wednesday to follow through with their plans to invest and hire employees, pledging to ease regulations and to boost mid-sized companies.

Some of South Korea's top 30 conglomerates announced their investment plans, but others did not release their plans for this year, according to the Federation of Korean Industries, or the lobby for the country's family-controlled conglomerates, known as chaebol.

Last year, chaebol vowed to invest 120.9 trillion won (US$110 billion), though it remains unclear whether they actually followed through on their investment plans, according to the FKI.

"Instead of paying lip service, companies should implement their plans to invest and hire new employees," Yoon Sang-jick, the head of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, said in a forum at a Seoul hotel.

In return, Yoon vowed to address business difficulties "in one stroke," though he did not elaborate.

Last month, FKI Chairman Huh Chang-soo, the head of GS Group, the country's seventh-largest conglomerate, called on his fellow business leaders to expand investment and create jobs.

Yoons' comments came as South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye has vowed to revitalize the slumping economy and create new jobs as Asia's fourth-largest economy has showed signs of slowing down.

South Korea's economy grew 2 percent last year, its lowest growth in three years. The Bank of Korea said in January that the country's economy is expected to grow 2.8 percent in 2013, compared to the previous estimate of 3.2 percent made in October 2012.

Yoon also renewed his commitment to raising the number of small-but-strong companies -- whose individual exports exceed $100 million per year -- to 300 by 2017 from the current 116.

"There is no future in our economy unless we ensure mid-sized companies increase their exports," Yoon said.

He also said the government will raise the country's power reserve rate to 21.2 percent in 2015 from 3.8 percent in 2012.

The power reserve rate is a crucial indicator of stability in power supply with a reserve rate of below 4 percent of total generation capacity considered dangerous.

Last year, South Korea issued numerous power shortage warnings during peak seasons in summer and winter.

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