Blue House rejects Moon’s pointsThe Blue House rebutted an opposition leader’s claim that President Park Geun-hye’s economic policy has failed and criticized her former campaign rival for discouraging efforts to boost economic recovery with “groundless” arguments.
Park and the leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties sat down for a meeting Tuesday and discussed issues. Moon Jae-in, chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Park’s rival in the 2012 presidential campaign, claimed her business-friendly, export-driven economic policy has done nothing for the struggling working class.
While the political rivals had some disagreements, they were able to narrow down some differences. One of the agreements from the meeting was the need to reform the indebted pension program for civil servants.
“The leaders of the ruling and opposition parties agreed with the president’s intention to revitalize the economy through structural reforms,” Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook said Wednesday. “We were able to gain momentum to obtain the National Assembly’s cooperation.”
Despite that positive spin on the Tuesday meeting, the Blue House issued a press release to rebut Moon’s criticisms.
“Warning of a crisis without proper grounds will only discourage major economic participants and go against our efforts to revitalize economy,” it said Wednesday.
Referring to improving economic indicators such as an increase in economic growth for two consecutive years and the highest employment rate in 12 years in 2014, the Blue House said the economy is recovering but that it takes time for the people to actually feel the improvements.
The Blue House also gave some specific rebuttals to Moon’s demands. On Moon’s insistence that the corporate tax be raised, the Blue House said it has been consistent policy for the government, even during the liberal Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun presidencies, to cut the corporate tax to encourage investment and employment. Moon was chief of staff for the Roh Blue House.
While the Blue House clearly smarted at Moon’s criticism, Tuesday’s meeting ended with some tangible agreements. A joint statement was announced Tuesday night after Park, Moon and the ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung completed their meeting earlier in the afternoon.
It was the first time that a joint statement was announced after Park met with an opposition leader. A similar meeting between Park and the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties had a catastrophic ending in 2013, paralyzing the politics for the next months.
One of the key agreements was a consensus to reform the money-losing public servants’ pension system.
“I feel desperate because we may never have a chance to do it if the National Assembly fails to approve the relevant bill in April,” Park was quoted as saying by the spokesmen of the Saenuri Party and NPAD, who were at the meeting.
Kim also said the National Assembly must respect the self-imposed deadline of May 2 to pass the bill to reform the public servants pension system.
“I do not treat the agreed date lightly,” Moon was quoted as saying by the spokesmen. “When the government presents its plan, we will also present our plan and talk about them together.”
Park, Kim and Moon also agreed that the bill to boost the country’s services sector, currently pending at the legislature, will be approved. Moon proposed that the health and medical service industries should be excluded from the bill and Kim accepted the request.
The leaders also discussed a plan to revise some tax bills. Many salaried workers were outraged with higher tax bills for 2014 that they received in the last few weeks.
“The government promised that there will be no tax hike for people who earn up to 55 million won [$48,800] a year and those earning 55 to 70 million will have to pay just additional 20,000 to 30,000 won,” Moon said. “Please keep the promise.”
Park promised that the government will try to revise tax laws to ensure that workers who make less than 55 million will not pay more and present the revisions to the National Assembly.
The three leaders also agreed that the minimum wage should be increased, but no specifics were provided.
As a part of his “wage-led” growth strategy, Moon said Tuesday at the Blue House meeting that the minimum wage should be increased by at least 10 percent, according to the ruling and opposition parties’ spokesmen.
Park, however, said it is more desirable to create jobs and boost growth rather than artificially increasing household incomes.
Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan has recently encouraged leaders of the business community to open their coffers to raise overall wage levels and agree with his proposal to raise the minimum wage, part of a new strategy to boost domestic consumption. The plan was received coldly by business.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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