Top biz lobby calls for deregulation in labor, environment sectors

By Nam Kwang-sik

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's biggest business lobby on Tuesday called for easing regulations in the labor- and environment-related sectors, calling them hurdles to attracting more investment from local and foreign companies.

Lee Dong-geun, vice chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), in talks with reporters cited ordinary wage calculations and low-carbon car subsidy as needing reconsideration.

A new regulation taking effect next year that gives subsidy to consumers who buy low-carbon emission cars is a measure that Lee said is favorable to foreign cars with better gas mileage. Locally made luxury cars like Hyundai Grandeur, on the other hand, would have to pay fees for high carbon emission, jacking up its price tag, he said.

Labor regulations on ordinary wages, working hours and legal retirement age are also a burden on the local and foreign companies that discourages investment, he said.

In mid-December, the country's top court ruled that regular bonuses paid to employees should be counted as ordinary wages, which is used as a basis for main allowances like overtime pay, holiday shift pay and paid annual leave.

Defying stiff opposition from the business community, including the KCCI, the National Assembly passed a bill in early May to delay the legal retirement age to 60 from 58 starting in 2016. The government is also pushing a bill to reduce the maximum weekly working hours to 52 from the current 56 to improve the quality of life of workers and help create more hourly jobs.

The KCCI's stance comes ahead of the government's so-called three-year economic innovation plan set to be announced late February.

In a New Year's news conference earlier this month, President Park Geun-hye said she will implement steps this year for an economic leap through deregulation and foreign investment.

"Companies find it more difficult to accept the regulations than before," Lee said.

"In order to lure more foreign companies to make investment in South Korea, top priority should be to deregulate in the labor and environment sector," Lee added.

A recent KCCI poll said more than half of foreign companies in South Korea cited a volatile economy and lack of policy consistency as key reasons for an unfavorable investment climate in the country.

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