SEOUL, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon instructed the government Thursday to come up with measures to minimize any negative effects the restoration of U.S. sanctions on Iran could have on South Korea's economy and businesses.
U.S. President Donald Trump has declared he's pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal, and ordered that the sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted under the 2016 deal, be reinstated. That prompted concern the restrictions could negatively affect South Korean trade and businesses.
Iranian oil accounted for 13 percent of South Korea's total crude imports last year, coming in third place after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
"This could have fairly broad effects on our business circles," Lee said during a weekly policy coordination meeting with ministers. "We shouldn't think this has nothing to do with us as it's taking place overseas. Though it will mainly be businesses that will be affected, we shouldn't let companies ... deal with it on their own."
Lee said the government should come up with countermeasures and share them with business.
"In the future too, the government should raise its antenna higher to figure out what's going on overseas and come up with countermeasures ahead of the private sector," he said.
Lee also asked ministers to take steps to make sure that the planned implementation of a 52-hour workweek will go as smoothly as possible.
The country's statutory maximum for working hours is set to be cut to 52 hours a week from the current 68 hours in July, though its implementation will be applied in stages to try to cushion business from side effects.
The reduced working hours will be applied to "big" companies -- those with 300 or more workers -- on July 1, while firms with 50 to 299 workers and those with five to 49 workers will be subject to the new rule starting Jan. 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, respectively.
The move comes as many young South Koreans seek to strike a balance between work and life, and it is line with President Moon Jae-in's key election pledges to enhance the quality of life for workers and help create jobs.
"The reduction in working hours ... will bring about big changes in our society," Lee said. "We have to make sure that these changes will lead to positive effects that improve people's quality of life, increase jobs and raise productivity."
Source: Yonhap News Agency