SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s finance minister said Wednesday the government will make efforts to create some 300,000 jobs by 2025 in the service sector that has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki unveiled a road map on developing the service industry, under which the country will focus on helping the service segment do business in a non-contact and digitalized manner.

“The country’s service industry has lagged behind the manufacturing sector in terms of productivity and innovation,” Hong said at a government meeting on the economy.

This file photo, taken Feb. 13, 2021, shows an almost empty street of Seoul’s shopping district of Myeongdong amid the pandemic. (Yonhap)

Under the plan, the country plans to help smaller shop owners and firms establish a smart business system in a bid to encourage them to better respond to the non-contact trend.

Once spiking virus cases are brought under control, the finance ministry plans to resume the distribution of vouchers and coupons to spur consumption for using cultural and sports facilities and accomodation and dining-out services.

“Separately, the government will push to expand the use of online coupons in a bid to boost private consumption amid the pandemic,” First Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom said at a press briefing.

In an effort to nurture the service sector, the country plans to increase its investment in government service-related research and development (R&D) to 7 trillion won (US$6.2 billion) over the next five years, up from 4 trillion won spent in 2016-2020.

The face-to-face service segment, such as restaurants and accomodations, took a beating from the new coronavirus outbreak as people have refrained from visiting shops on concerns of infection risks.

The South Korean economy is on a recovery track on the back of robust exports, but domestic demand and the job market remain sluggish amid the pandemic.

Last year, service output declined 2 percent on-year, far sharper than a 0.8 percent decline in the country’s industrial output, according to the statistics agency.

The country reported an on-year fall of 218,000 jobs last year, the biggest in more than two decades.

The wholesale and retail sector lost 160,000 job posts in 2020, and the accommodation and food service segment reported an on-year fall of 159,000 jobs.