South Korea president Lee Myung-bak has urged the country’s automakers to do everything they can to overcome the economic slowdown before seeking government assistance.

The Yonhap news agency said that the call came shortly before Seoul announced a set of tax incentives for buyers of new automobiles.
“The reason the automobile industry almost always becomes a big issue whenever world leaders meet is because the industry creates a large number of jobs,” the president said at an emergency economic committee meeting.
He stressed the need, however, for the companies to first take strenuous efforts to bail themselves out, according to his spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.
Yonhap said the president noted the average salary of workers at Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, was higher than that of American employees at the company’s Alabama factory, though productivity lagged behind that of the US plant.

“Labor and management will first have to announce drastic measures” to prop themselves up, the president was quoted as saying, also urging them to improve relations to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

The report said that new tax incentives include a 70 percent cut on registration and acquisition taxes for buyers who replace their vehicles manufactured prior to 2000 with new ones that emit less greenhouse gases, a measure aimed at boosting domestic purchases.