[EDITORIALS]Press hears little newIn his New Year’s press conference, President Roh Moo-hyun discussed his opinions on specific sectors such as politics, the economy, diplomacy, security and society. On the whole, he gave a calm explanation and was cautious in speaking of matters that could raise conflict. It was quite a change from previous appearances that President Roh has made ― when he met with reporters in the past, he always made comments that had a big impact on society. In that sense, there is some reason behind the Uri Party’s evaluation of Mr. Roh’s press conference as being one that “gave the people stability and faith.” But it was disappointing that his words did not present a vision of state affairs, which should have been their essence.
The president’s New Year press conference is an event in which he can announce the direction in which management of state affairs is headed, as well as the administration’s main policies.
In the United States, the president gives a State of the Union address to the Congress and in Korea, the New Year’s press conference has assumed a similar role. But it was difficult to tell from this year’s conference which state affairs the administration will focus on and what the government’s stance is on issues that are socially divisive.
Mr. Roh did not even give more details on how he will solve the problem of social polarization, which he presented in his New Year’s televised speech on Jan. 18. Regarding North Korea’s counterfeit currency problems, he evaded a direct answer, saying it was “dangerous” for the president to become directly involved and make conclusions. On struggles between police and prosecutors over investigative rights, he said he wasn’t in a position to make any decisions.
Although Mr. Roh warned against threats against and blackmail of the weak in society and emphasized four main sources of violence to be rooted out, these were all projects that were already being planned in ministerial meetings and other smaller groups.
In fact, if he was going to ignore current affairs and stick to theoretical responses, there was no need to give a New Year’s speech and New Year’s press conference separately. The people had high hopes for the press conference. The president should have made some comments on innovative government policies. He should also have commented on resolving polarization problems.
It is a relief that President Roh has accepted public opinion and taken back his plans to raise taxes. He said he would not ask for any immediate tax increases, saying that even the president couldn’t do what he wanted if it was against the people’s wishes. His tone was slightly different from when he said he would provide a “fundamental solution” to the government’s cash crunch in his earlier speech.
On real estate policies, the president said the government had created a perfect policy, but that it wasn’t working well because there were groups trying to disable it. Yet taking a roundabout stance and blaming “rebellious forces” whenever public opinion goes bad or things go wrong doesn’t inspire confidence.
Before we ask whether or not taxes should be raised, we should first think of expanding welfare, consider the overall national direction and emphasize that social consensus is needed to achieve these tasks. But the president did not say a single word about that and instead tried to avoid responsibility.
At this point, we need to have fundamental discussions on welfare expenses and the excessive expansion of the public sector.