South Korea's President says his government will be in emergency mode in 2009 to
deal with the global economic crisis. In a New Year's address to South Korean
citizens, Lee Myung-bak also called for North Korea to adopt a modern attitude
and negotiate in partnership with Seoul.
With sobering economic numbers emerging for
2008, and a challenging 2009 ahead, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak
promised a hands-on approach to the economy Tuesday for the year
Mr. Lee promises his government will be in "emergency mode" to
cope with slowing economic conditions around the world.
He adds, he will
not fail for even a moment to stay aware of the economic situation, and promises
to implement countermeasures to the negative forces weighing down the global
economy. He calls on Koreans to unite in the face of the
President Lee's nationally televised New Year's address coincides
with fresh data Tuesday that South Korea's exports - the lifeblood of this
economy - plunged by more than 15 percent in December.
Mr. Lee promised
the government would do more to help small and medium sized businesses to retain
employees. He says he will press ahead with plans to privatize and scale back
"Nobody predicted the start of the worldwide
economic crisis," said Mr. Lee. "And nobody can predict when it will end."
However, he says he will do his best to fulfill optimistic forecasts of
an improvement in the later half of 2009.
Although the economy dominated
Mr. Lee's New Year address, he also promised to work at any time as a partner
with North Korea. The North often calls the South Korean president a "traitor"
for his refusal to provide unconditional aid and investment, as his two
The South Korean president says he is ready to have
talks and work as a partner with Pyongyang - but says the North needs to start
"accurately" understanding the current situation.
Mr. Lee says North
Korea must give up what he calls the "outdated" habit of trying to divide South
Koreans among themselves, and instead try to cooperate with Seoul.
Korea has refused all of the Lee administration's dialogue offers, and has
sharply curtailed previous North-South cooperation projects and border access.
South Korean aid to the North is on hold pending better cooperation from
Pyongyang on issues such as getting rid of the North's nuclear weapons.