Supporting SMEs and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

July 16, 2020

The spread of COVID-19 is a health crisis but it is not just a health crisis. It is a social, economic and political crisis that has disrupted billions of lives and endangered the global economy.

As part of UNDP’s response to COVID-19 to help countries prepare, respond, recover and offer a pathway beyond recovery, towards 2030, the UNDP COVID-19 private sector service offer aims to keep all people, households and businesses afloat in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis while collaborating with the private sector to safeguard its resilience and viability in order to preserve and advance the SDGs. While the private sector has a pivotal role to play in overcoming the crises with its innovative solutions, it is also a sector fully affected by the crises.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the self-employed, and the informal sector are particularly vulnerable. As one of the first countries to be hit by the pandemic in January 2020, the Republic of Korea (ROK) introduced policy measures to sustain businesses and employment.

On 23 July, a webinar was organized by the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) in partnership with the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) to share concrete examples from ROK on the i) impact of COVID-19 on businesses, industries and SMEs; ii) government measures such as financial and tax support, loans and investment for SMEs and businesses during the pandemic; and iii) the private sector’s response to mitigate and manage risk. It also introduced UNDP’s response and programmes to support SMEs.

The webinar sparked discussions on how disruptions in traditional economic activity like COVID-19 can drive positive outcomes for businesses, workers and consumers alike. Policymakers and other relevant actors can use the lessons from the Korean experience to steer the recovery toward more sustainable trajectories.


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  • Soonmok Kwon, Team Leader, Industrial Policy Division, ROK MOTIE: Impact of COVID-19 on Korean businesses thus far, and ROK government’s policies to support businesses, especially heavily impacted industries and SMEs, during and after the pandemic.

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  • Jae-Hyung You, CEO, SolGent (Korean SME and producer of COVID-19 test kits): Measures taken to turn the crisis into an opportunity and support the company has received from government that helped mitigate the challenges.

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  • Jaeho Choi, General Manager, Hyundai Motor Group: Investments in the company’s global or domestic value chain or as CSR activities, to support SMEs (e.g. co-financing with the government to create a guarantee fund to support auto parts makers).

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  • Q&A Session

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Related resources:

Report: Safeguarding economic resilience: In responding to the economic impact of COVID-19 (ROK Ministry of Economy and Finance, 11 Jun 2020)

Video recording: Special Webinar on COVID-19: K-economic Measures (English/French/Spanish) (ROK government ministries, 20 Jun 2020)

Poster: Comprehensive Economic Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (ROK Ministry of Economy and Finance, 20 Apr 2020)

Report: Responding to COVID-19 - Emergency Employment Measures (ROK Ministry of Employment and Labor, 20 May 2020)

Booklet: Korean New Deal: National Strategy for a Great Transformation (ROK Ministry of Economy and Finance, 20 Jul 2020)