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[Column] Korea Inc. Creating U.S. Jobs

[Column] Korea Inc. creating U.S. jobs

[Column] Korea Inc. creating U.S. jobs

Lee Sang-ryeol The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo. Over this side of the Pacific, we can only envy U.S. President Joe Biden boasting about the robust job market in his country. In his 73-minute annual State of the Union Address on Feb. 7, he repeatedly praised himself for creating 12 million jobs since taking office in January 2021. “We have created 12 million new jobs — more jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years,” said the president. Biden highlighted that the U.S. has added “800,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs, the fastest growth in 40 years.” He is not exaggerating. Jobs are overflowing in America. The red-hot employment data is expected to drive the Federal Reserve to keep up lifting the benchmark rate. Jobs are the strongest pitch for American politicians. They are mentioned every time they stand before the public. Jobs come first, maybe because the U.S. is the birthplace of the free market and runs on capitalism. Work defines human dignity and ensures family wellbeing. That is a universal fact agreed to by both the people and politicians. Political life would be at risk if jobs are lacking. Politicians strive to make jobs. Quality jobs offering stable income and welfare benefits can allow self-sufficiency in old age, medical coverage and education. Jobs therefore make the best welfare. Biden has reasons to be proud. He went to pitch for jobs regardless of criticism about putting American interests first at the expense other countries. The signature multibillion-dollar legislations such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act are all aimed to bolster investment and manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to create more jobs. They all work to force companies to build or add their manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to do business there through attractive tax benfits and other incentives. Korean enterprises played a big role in helping Biden to boast about “good-paying manufacturing jobs.” Samsung Electronics in chips, Hyundai Motor in electric vehicles, SK in chips and batteries, and LG in batteries are spending billions of dollars to expand their production facilities in the U.S. Last year, Reshoring Initiative, a nonprofit organization in the U.S., projected that more than 350,000 jobs could be created through reshoring and foreign direct investment, and Korea came out as the biggest contributor. The nonprofit organization expected 34 Korean companies to create more than 35,000 jobs in the U.S. That many jobs could have been made in Korea. But companies move on economic logic. They build factories with good business environment and where profits or competitiveness can increase. Given the sheer size of the U.S. market and the U.S.-led supply chain realignment — and considering radical incentives from federal and individual states — it would be more sensible for Korean companies to build factories there. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy applaud as U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Feb. 7. [AFP/YONHAP] Back at home, manufacturing jobs are dwindling fast. The number of the employed by manufacturers declined by 35,000 in January from a year-ago period. The fall was somewhat offset by the hiring of 90,000 workers aged 60 or older. In the meantime, the number of employed under 60 fell by 126,000. In other words, jobs are being added entirely on the temporary basis. When compared to January 2018, full-timers working more than 36 hours a week sank by a whopping 880,000. Instead, those employed for 1 to 14 hours without any health insurance, severance pay and other benefits increased by as many as 480,000. But politicians remain oblivious to the grim job reality. Job-making bills like the Korean version of the U.S. Chips Act are gathering dust in the legislature. Instead, a new labor act aimed at making strikes easier than before and disturbing labor sites are on a path to be enacted led by the supermajority Democratic Party. Korean politicians have little will or competency in defending or increasing jobs. They easily give into lobby groups and care little about improving our investment environment. They only promise more social security as a result of decreasing jobs and income. National debt from such a move is piling up astronomically. Lawmakers who have killed jobs roam around without any dent on their conscience. It is no wonder that Korean companies increasingly choose the […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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