conglomerates-investment plan

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's major conglomerates plan to solidly increase their investment this year, the government said Thursday, in a move that could help create more jobs in the local economy struggling to pull out of a prolonged slump.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the country's 30 largest conglomerates will invest a combined 149 trillion won (US$133 billion) this year, up 7 percent from a year earlier.

The companies unveiled their investment plans ahead of a special meeting Thursday between their top officials and the minister of trade, industry and energy.

The ministry said the companies will also boost their employment, hiring some 128,000 new employees this year, up 1.5 percent from a year earlier.

"The government is doing its best to help revitalize the economy, and it plans to further remove regulations that prevent investment by private companies," Minister Yoon Sang-jick was quoted as saying.

Samsung Group, the country's largest single conglomerate, plans to invest up to 49 trillion won this year, which is slightly larger than its plans for last year, according to ministry officials.

No. 2 conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group submitted an investment plan worth 14.1 trillion won while fourth-largest conglomerate LG Group said it will invest 20 trillion won this year, the largest amount in its history, they said.

The meeting comes as the Korean economy, Asia's fourth-largest, is showing signs of losing steam due to unfavorable conditions at home and abroad, including the weak yen.

Last year, the economy grew 2 percent on-year, the slowest pace in three years, due to sluggish exports and weak domestic demand. In late March, the government cut its growth outlook for this year to 2.3 percent from an earlier 3 percent.

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