New start for President Moon
: Second half of presidency should be about national harmony
President Moon Jae-in has just entered into the second half of his single five-year term.
Presiding over a meeting of the Anti-Corruption Policy Consultative Council at Cheong Wa Dae, Friday, Moon vowed to mobilize all possible measures to enhance the level of fairness in all sectors of society. Describing establishing a fair society as one of his biggest missions as the Chief Executive, he said the fight against corruption and malpractices in society has a long way to go.
"Fairness" seems to be the key word he has chosen halfway through his presidency. It is good for Moon to reaffirm his commitment to full-scale reform and share his vision for a fair society again. But one big lesson from the Cho Kuk fiasco is that reform plans without social consensus cannot succeed.
In an acceptance speech two and a half years ago, Moon pledged to become the President for all people regardless of their ideological and social backgrounds. But his treatment of political opponents, particularly the largest conservative Liberty Korea Party, for the past years has raised strong doubts about the sincerity of this pledge. The first thing he must do is to reach out to opposition parties with respect and restore partnership with them.
Of course this is not to say the opposition parties are doing well. The way they do politics has been disappointing as well. This is rather to remind that the President should assume the biggest responsibility for what the opposition parties are today. The deepening ideological division in society and the dysfunctional political sector pose the biggest challenges for Moon. On Sunday, President Moon had a dinner with the leaders of five political parties to express thanks for their condolences over the death of his mother in late October. Hopefully, this will help break the political impasse.
For social reform, there should be changes in Moon's management of state affairs first. It is urgent for Moon to embrace people with different ideological backgrounds and offer them important jobs at Cheong Wa Dae and the administration. Competency should be the top priority in recruiting talented people and the "revolving-door" personnel appointment should be avoided for the remainder of his term.
What is equally important is to focus on developing growth potential for the economy. Korea Inc. is losing vitality under Moon largely due to external factors, such as the rising protectionism and the trade war between the United States and China. There was almost nothing the Moon administration could do to prevent such external risks from weighing on the export-driven Korean economy. But it cannot avoid criticism concerning its dubious economic policies. Moon's flagship "income-led" growth policy centered on boosting the minimum wage and increasing the number of public-sector jobs did not work under the current economic circumstances despite its noble purposes. The timing was not good. Recently, the Moon administration has shifted its focus on nurturing industries in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This seems to be a step in the right direction.
In the early days of his presidency, Moon enjoyed high approval ratings thanks to a turnaround in inter-Korean relations and the mediating role he played for the denuclearization and peace talks between North Korea and the United States. But it has been proven yet again through ups and downs of the North-U.S. dialogue how tricky the inter-Korean peace is. As long as the North doesn't show sincerity, peace will remain fragile. This is also why Moon should not blindly pursue rapprochement with the Kim Jong-un regime. A strategic approach is needed more than ever in dealing with Pyongyang.