Keeping foreign investors informed
By Jeffrey I. Kim
On July 27 the government launched a new regulatoryinformation service for foreign investors. When new bills are proposed by thelawmakers or government agencies, they will be translated into English andplaced on the regulatory information portal. Then foreign investors candirectly access this portal and give comments and suggestions about the newbills. The objective of this system is to prevent hasty production of unjustifiableregulations which hinder the business operations of the foreign companies.
This online regulatory information service is the first of its kind for foreigninvestors in Korea. The new system was created as a result of the thirdregulatory reform ministerial meeting held at the Blue House about three monthsago. This meeting was attended by ministers and business representatives fromthe private sector. The ministers gave updates on regulatory reform progress.Some representatives from domestic companies made remarks about theirexperience of excessive regulations.
Representatives from foreign companies started out by praising the president'sstrenuous efforts to improve the conditions for foreign investment in Korea butthey ended up saying that Korea's regulations still lack predictability,transparency and consistency and these regulations have a long way to go tomeet global standards. Having listened to the voices and concerns of theforeign investors, Madam President responded by saying "The ForeignInvestment Ombudsman is here with us today and I would like to request that hecontinue to identify the regulation-related grievances of foreigninvestors."
President Park expressed regret over the fact that even though deregulationefforts have never ended, new regulations continue to be produced. She lamentedthat many young people are suffering from unemployment which is caused in partby unjustified laws and regulations. She laid out several policy tasks toprevent reckless regulations driven by political populism. She made a specialrequest for the creation of an online regulatory portal site where newlydrafted laws and regulations are introduced. Then the foreign investors mayaccess the portal site to submit suggestions for regulatory improvements. Atthe presidential request, the Office for Government Policy Coordination tookthe lead to set up an online website for foreign investors and the Ombudsman'sOffice took charge of operating this system.
A great number of foreign investors have applauded the regulatory informationservice. Through the portal site, foreign investors can voice their opinions tothe relevant ministries. Before the creation of the Regulatory InformationPortal, explanations of new laws and regulations were available only in Korean.In addition, regulatory bills were legislated and amended without reflectingthe opinions of foreign investors.
There are two portal sites where foreign investors can read the new bills andsubmit opinions. One is http://e.better.go.krwhich is directly run by the Office for Government Policy Coordination and theother is www.i-ombudsman.or.kr run by the Ombudsman's Office. These two portals are linked together.Each of these portals provides two services. One service is that foreigninvestors can submit opinions on current unreasonable regulations through"the regulatory portal shinmungo." Shinmungo refers to a huge drumplaced outside the royal place in the old days, and common people gave the druma bang to directly appeal their grievances to the king. The other service isthat through the "i-ombudsman portal," foreign investors can submitcomments on the new and strengthened regulations legislated by the governmentand the National Assembly.
Despite the impressive launching of the regulatory information service,representatives from the foreign chambers of commerce expressed some concerns.They may not be given sufficient time to examine the bills proposed bypoliticians. The English translation of the bills is partial and they cannotfully understand the contents. They wanted to be notified online that new billshave just arrived at the regulatory information portal. These concerns andsuggestions can easily be taken care of. Other problems may occur later but sofar so good. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Jeffrey I. Kim is the foreign investment ombudsman, a presidentiallyappointed troubleshooter for investors and entrepreneurs from overseas. He canbe reached through email@example.com