[EDITORIALS]A look back at the 1st half

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[EDITORIALS]A look back at the 1st half

The Roh Moo-hyun administration reached its midway point today. As the public looks back on the first half of his presidency, opinions are generally negative.
A survey showed that more than half of those who voted for Mr. Roh in the 2002 election no longer support him. Mr. Roh is suffering the lowest approval rating for a president at the midpoint of his term, and he is also near the bottom in the popularity rankings of all Korean presidents. Why?
This current administration has enjoyed its share of accomplishments. There is less abuse of authority, and election campaigns are now largely free of illegal funds. The Roh administration has also tried to achieve more regional balance and has built social safety nets for the less fortunate.
However, in a period when the economic growth rate has stalled, the government has been busy working on trying to equally distribute wealth, a move that has backfired to further polarize the rich and the poor.
In the name of balanced national development, the administration’s various projects only pushed up land prices. The regional, generational and ideological differences compounded social divisions.
The president’s remarks that led to accusations that he violated the constitution threatened the nation. The general discontent over the government’s performance is the fundamental reason for the low level of trust in the Roh administration.
The government should focus on the national economy. Sixty-seven percent of Koreans polled say the Roh administration has failed in its economic policies, and 74 percent say the economy should be the absolute focal point for the president for the remainder of his tenure.
Despite public opinion, Mr. Roh says the government has effectively coped with the economic crisis. At a time when his people are saying they have difficulty making ends meet, Mr. Roh continues to tell them his biggest goal for the second half of his presidency is changing Korean political culture. We wonder whether he is actually listening to his own constituents.
Mr. Roh’s remarks expressing his confidence in Korea’s competitiveness are simply too removed from what Koreans are concerned about. Unless the administration listens to the criticism of the lack of hope and vision, the rest of Mr. Roh’s term will be dismal.
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