Moon’s guiding lightMoon Jae-in is leading the country in comprehensive reform as the president and helmsman of the ship that is Korea.
First, he has distanced himself from the familiar. His friends and aides have retreated after contributing to his election victory. That is why Koreans have high hopes and put great trust in him. The president did not appoint those who were loyal to him to major positions. High-ranking officials from the Roh Moo-hyun administration were also excluded. Of course, they should certainly not be discriminated against, but it is a notable act.
Furthermore, at the memorial service for President Roh, his former boss, President Moon said he would not attend the service during his term. He made a solid pledge to the friend who would celebrate his election the most and whose tragedy is closely linked to his fate that he would only return after his presidential term is over with a final report card. His devotion and determination for successful reform is strong and sincere.
Second, Moon precisely understands the core targets of reform. Job market reform, corporate reform and criminal justice reform are key to securing the people’s livelihood, market order, an economy for the people, jobs, equality, human rights, liberty and justice. President Moon began his work from here and appointed the best reform-minded experts. We can hope for reforms that will change the fate of the nation. President Moon is personally tracking the jobs, a type of accountability that is the alpha and omega of successful reform.
In terms of priorities, criminal justice reform is the primary barometer of democracy and governance by the law. Corporate reform comes next. The conglomerates have total assets that exceed GDP but employ only a small portion of the population, and their share of employment is constantly decreasing. The correlation between conglomerate expansion and decreasing jobs is the reason corporate reform is needed to revive the nation’s economy and job market. As we compare the portions of household, corporate and government income in the national economy, and trends in employment, unemployment, inequality, poverty and the gender pay gap, we realize that the improvement of people’s lives and equality is not possible without corporate reform.
Third, diplomacy is domestic governance. Moon’s reforms continue the Gwanghwamun protests, and it will be a diplomatic and international reform for global allyship and peace. In Korea, diplomacy, security and peace are equal to economy, jobs and welfare. The North Korean nuclear crisis and the Gwanghwamun protests were a drama in which the greatest nuclear threat of the 21st century coexisted with the world’s biggest peaceful protests. The Gwanghwamun protests were products of a civil movement, of calls from global citizens denouncing confrontation and war and promoting denuclearization and peace.
The Gwanghwamun protests are going beyond the power change in Korea and spreading values of coexistence, cooperation, talks and peace across the Korean Peninsula and East Asia. For the first time, the special envoy representing the Korean people and government mentioned peace and engagement to U.S. President Donald Trump, and emphasized trust and dialogue over regime change and armed measures. It is the surprising chain reaction from the Gwanghwamun protests, bringing changes in Washington through the Moon administration and his special envoy. The government must convert the initial role entrusted in the Gwanghwamun protests into diplomatic capacity to attain denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
We should also remember the precedent that we had high hopes for some popular presidents, but they ended up being incompetent, powerless and useless. In democracy, personal failures bring down beyond the limits of the system, but personal success cannot exceed laws and systems due to the nature of governance by the law. Therefore, reform must go through procedures and laws. Corrective reforms of individual cases and persons may gain quick support, but they don’t last long. Currently, the morale and support for the elite are at their lowest. This is the best time to embrace the far right, pursue structural reform and work toward national integration and continued reform. This is a profound opportunity to make a great leap with reform and integration.
Successful reforms have always been achieved and completed through laws and systems. Reform is more difficult than revolution, but it is more effective, so the president’s promise to revise the Constitution, the highest law of the land, is meaningful. Fundamental reform needs to go that far.
From the first step, President Moon embraced the people who were struggling and in pain. We all cried when he hugged one of the family members of the victims in the military crackdown against the Gwangju democratization movement in the 1980s. His first official public appearance was a meeting with contract employees. These are symbolic moments that show where and for whom the state power is heading toward.
Embracing from Gwangju to Washington, from contract workers to conglomerates, we are setting out on a hard journey to make national reform successful. The future of Korea depends on Moon’s reforms.
A proper nation is linked to a humane life for everyone. Let’s make a proper nation and humanity together. Let’s establish the nation to provide an environment where we, our children and our children’s children can live as proper humans.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 26, Page 35
*The author is a political science professor at Yonsei University.