No populism, please

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No populism, please

The opposition Minjoo Party under the emergency leadership of economist-turned-politician Kim Chong-in announced symbiotic growth as the keystone for the party’s economic platform for upcoming general election. The party seeks a balance between distribution and growth. Chung Sye-kyun, co-head of the party’s economic committee, said “Growing Together” is the only solution to the economy, as the growth led primarily by large companies only worsens inequalities and does not help stimulate growth. It is an encouraging sign that the liberal party, which previously entirely focused on fairer distribution, is paying attention to growth.

The party’s growth agenda emphasizes fairness, initiative, and network. It aims to ensure a hiring quota for young jobseekers, the abolishment of discrimination against non-regular workers, higher minimum base salaries and profit-sharing. It aspires to restructure industries so they stand at the forefront instead of chasing and emulating those of advanced countries. It selected aerospace, pharmaceuticals and the medical sector, and renewable energy as the areas in which Korea can be competitive on the global stage.

The platform is more rhetorical than detailed in its content. Although it is packaged with phrases like “engaging growth,” the party’s policy aims are no different from those of the ruling party. It is more like a loose mix of Kim Chong-in’s dogma about a fairer economy, which provided the grounds for President Park Geun-hye’s economic agenda during her presidential campaign, and the income-based growth principles led by her presidential rival Moon Jae-in.

What worries us is the possibility of revived competition for populist policies.

The bizarre idea of digging into the national pension fund to solve housing problems for young people is one. The main opposition has been opposed to the wage peak system to create more room for young employees and other bills to reform the labor sector for greater flexibility in the job market. How many companies will go along with the plan to set quotas for new hiring when the retirement age has been prolonged and base salaries are extended to cover bonuses? The party is again being tempted to roll out reckless promises just to win votes.

Political leaders and parties should give hope to the people with feasible alternatives and policies instead of feeding them with delusive ideas.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 2, Page 30

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