South Korea will step up intra-government cooperation to provide coordinated policy measures in its ongoing anti-inflation efforts, the nation's top economic policymaker said Wednesday.
"Not just the finance ministry but also other related ministries will join hands and come up with reasonable measures, if needed, by closely analyzing price trends of major items that show price instability," Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told an economic policy coordination meeting.
"And the government will toughen the punishment level on violations of the nation's fair trade laws and boost competition (to lower prices) by easing market-entry regulations."
As for worries about oil price hikes after refineries withdraw their temporary price cuts early next month, Bahk called for policy coordination and a "unified voice" for its people in order to reduce confusion about the government's follow-up measures.
In April, the nation's major refineries temporarily reduced their oil supplies by 100 won per liter in line with the government's call for help to ease soaring gasoline and diesel prices. The price cut will not be available from July 7.
In particular, he singled out high eat-out costs, saying that the government is keeping an eye on excessive price hikes by restaurants compared with increased food material costs.
His remarks are in line with the government's continued push to bring inflation under control as high food and energy prices could undercut the nation's economic recovery.
Earlier this year, the government declared a "war" against inflation, saying that its top priority is to stabilize prices for working-class people.
However, it seems to be losing the battle over the past months. South Korea's consumer prices jumped 4.1 percent in May from a year earlier, much higher than the government's annual target of keeping inflation at around 3 percent.