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Park calls for utmost efforts to revive economy


SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye instructed government officials Monday to focus their efforts on reviving the economy under a new Cabinet to be launched this week.

Park's remarks come days after South Korea's central bank lowered its economic growth outlook for the year to 3.8 percent from 4 percent, while trimming its growth outlook for next year to 4 percent from 4.2 percent.

The downward revision reflected the negative consumer and business sentiment caused by a deadly ferry sinking in April, the Bank of Korea said.

"Once the new Cabinet is launched, there must be utmost efforts to revive the economy of the public more than anything else, and I ask the political circles and the people for their support for the second Cabinet," Park said during a meeting with her senior secretaries at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

She especially ordered the economic team to prepare a set of economic policies for the second half of the year to help the public feel "the economy warming up."

Park stressed the importance of deregulation as a tool to spur investment and job creation, saying she plans to hold a meeting soon to check progress in efforts to remove excessive business regulations.

Park conducted a partial Cabinet reshuffle last month to revamp her embattled government following April's ferry disaster that claimed the lives of more than 300 people, mostly high school students.

However, it remains to be seen whether the new Cabinet will be launched as planned amid growing pressure from opposition parties to withdraw three nominees, including those for education and culture ministers, over allegations of plagiarism and other ethical issues.

Park called for a strong defense posture against possible provocations by North Korea, saying the communist country has been showing an "ambivalent attitude" by proposing inter-Korean talks on its plan to join the Asian Games in South Korea in September while also conducting ballistic missile tests.

"At the same time, as we defend peace, we must make efforts to take a step forward to actively create peace and build the foundation for peaceful reunification," she said, adding that the government has continued to pursue social exchange projects aimed at resolving humanitarian issues and promoting joint prosperity.

Her remarks came shortly before the North fired about 100 artillery shells into waters just north of the eastern maritime border.

In January, Park ordered the formation of a presidential committee to prepare for unification with North Korea but its launch was delayed by the ferry sinking and a series of North Korean provocations.

On Tuesday, the government will make an announcement on the committee, marking the beginning of its operation in earnest, Park said.

"The launch of the preparatory committee for unification will be an opportunity to boost the public's interest in unification and discuss ways to open the era of unification," she said.

The committee is expected to be comprised of more than 70 members, with Park as chair and one vice chairperson each from the government and the private sector.

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