President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday called for financial institutions to provide greater support for export firms as he presided over the first session of emergency economic policy meetings that were revived to cope with growing uncertainties in the global economy.
"At a difficult time, it is important for financial institutions to support business activities," Lee said during the meeting with top economic policymakers and heads of major financial institutions, according to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha.
"Financial institutions, including banks, should actively support export and business activities so as for us to win in the global competition. I hope financial institutions will think about their unique roles. Then it will be helpful for us to overcome the crisis," he said.
The appeal appears to show that Lee believes exports are the main means of breaking through increasing uncertainties as Europe's debt crisis shakes the world economy, and that financial institutions should put the national economy ahead of their interests in a time of crisis.
The meeting marked the revival of a set of emergency economic policy meetings that Lee had regularly presided over in efforts to lead South Korea out of the 2008 global financial crisis. The government decided to revive the meetings as concerns about the global economy have grown.
Between 2009 and last year, Lee and top economic policymakers met in an underground bunker at Cheong Wa Dae once every two weeks to discuss measures to overcome the 2008 global financial meltdown triggered by the U.S. subprime mortgage debacle.
Once South Korea successfully pulled itself out of the turmoil, the emergency sessions were changed last year to meetings that focus on policies for mid- and low-income families under Lee's drive to break away from his pro-business image and care more for ordinary people.
In recent months, fiscal debt woes in Europe and a stagnating recovery in major economies have raised concerns over a double-dip recession worldwide. South Korea's financial market is also going through greater volatility, raising concerns it could face a crisis similar to 2008.
Lee has stressed that South Korea's economy is strong enough to overcome a new crisis, with its national debt at a low level and exports remaining brisk, asking citizens to have confidence in their economies and saying excessive concerns won't do any good.
During Thursday's meeting, Lee also called for greater attention to smaller firms, lower-income people and other socially weak groups, saying they are at greater risk in times of economic difficulties, according to Park, the spokesman.