Leadership lapses

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Leadership lapses

The disappointing compromise between the ruling and main opposition parties to redesign the moneylosing government employees’ pension program raises serious questions about the leadership of two aspiring presidential candidates, Kim Moo-sung of the ruling Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. Did they read the details thoroughly and follow the right procedures in reaching a settlement?

The compromise deal is a makeshift to stop the leak in public funds for now. It also included the broader National Pension Scheme that is unrelated to necessary reform for the government employees’ program. The parties suddenly proposed to boost the coverage ratio in the national pension program from 40 percent to 50 percent. Subscribers in the government employees’ pension plan total 1.07 million, but contributors in the national pension scheme number more than 21 million. Any revision in the national pension should have been thought
out carefully, considering the ramifications.

An aspiring leader should be extra discreet in addressing costly and significant issues. Irresponsible and reckless decisions can wreak havoc on governance and cause a huge burden on the people. But the two leaders were swept away by their eagerness for a public display of bipartisanship. Kim wanted to celebrate his party’s victory in the by-elections with a pension reform deal, and Moon needed to
bolster the NPAD’s image after the landslide defeat. The two already have displayed shortcomings as leaders.

Kim held multiple senior posts in the Blue House, cabinet and legislature. Few can beat his public service credentials. Yet in October, he floated the idea of an Austria-like dual-governing system through constitutional reform as an alternative to the five-year presidential system. He later apologized for his inappropriate comment while overseas.

Moon Jae-in served as chief of staff and senior secretary for former President Roh Moo-hyun. He was the opposition’s choice to run against President Park Geun-hye in the last presidential election. He sided with civilian activists and victims’ families while legislators and the government were trying to draw up a special law in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry tragedy. He proposed confirming the nomination of Lee Wan-koo for prime minister through a public referendum.

Pension reform is for future generations. Voters closely watch Kim and Moon because they could run for president. But they are questioning if they should put their future in such incapable hands.

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