Moon Jae-in’s notebook

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Moon Jae-in’s notebook


President Moon Jae-in delivers his first Memorial Day address at the Seoul National Cemetery on Tuesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Among the president’s personal belongings, I am most curious about his notebook. Surely, it must be filled with memos, maybe a list of candidates for prime minister or the policies he has in mind. It might even include private notes.

President Moon Jae-in most certainly has a notebook. That much can be deduced from his book “Destiny.” On President Roh Moo-hyun’s final words, he wrote, “I showed the first printout to the first lady and kept it in my pocket. I still have it in my notebook. There is no special reason, but I simply cannot throw it away.” As I read the book, I was quite surprised. The death of President Roh must have been so heartbreaking for Moon.

Of course, it is uncertain if he still has the final words in his notebook. I asked those close to him, but they said they don’t know. In meetings, he takes notes on notepads rather than a notebook.

But I hope he does not have the will in his notebook anymore. Actually, I don’t believe he does. He had suggested so during his Memorial Day address and speech at the commemoration of the eighth anniversary of Roh’s passing. President Moon personally reviewed the addresses and wrote many parts.

President Moon’s address at the ceremony remembering the late president was a virtual farewell. He had told President Roh, “I will come back after my duties are complete,” and said, “We will go beyond a participatory administration. Let’s bury in our hearts how sorry we are for failing to protect him.” It sounded like he would focus on state affairs while serving as president and getting over the sorrow of losing President Roh.

His Memorial Day speech was also exceptional. He talked about the future and reconciliation and vowed to end ideological politics and factionalism. He emphasized the devotion and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and the miners and nurses sent to Germany.

“The Korean economy was revived based on the devotion and sacrifice of those who fought in the Vietnam War,” he said. The Vietnam War vets and workers sent to Germany were favorite topics of conservative presidents, so it is noteworthy that President Moon highlighted their contributions after being labeled by the far right as a pro-Pyongyang progressive.

President Moon has been in office for a month now and shown strong drive. He began his criminal justice reform by ordering an investigation into a dinner where prosecutors gave and received money. He announced a plan to inspect the four-rivers restoration project and suggested modifying the investigative authority of prosecutions and police by reinforcing the Human Rights Commission. He is preparing for defense reform by addressing the omission of four additional missile defense launchers in the Ministry of National Defense’s briefing to the president. These are the core parts of Moon’s reform plan.

However, they require more than the president’s will. In many cases, the opposition’s support is needed in the National Assembly. Moon’s Democratic Party holds 120 seats, just under a majority. Under the National Assembly Advancement Act, little can be done without the help of opposition parties.

President Moon knows the situation very well. Then how about filling his notebook with the phone numbers of opposition lawmakers? He has been emphasizing cooperation since his inauguration, but little has been achieved. In confirmation hearings for his minister nominees, the ruling and opposition parties are growing sore. The opposition parties are reluctant to process the urgent supplementary budget his administration has proposed and a government organization act. Just as he kept Roh’s final words in his notebook, Moon might want to consider keeping the phone numbers of opposition lawmakers in his book. He might also want to visit the National Assembly soon.

In his Memorial Day address, President Moon said, “People had different ways to love their country, but they were all patriots. The new Republic of Korea begins here.” The ruling party may perceive some of the opposition parties as a “long-standing evil.” However, if President Moon embraces the conservatives as he said in his address, he can move the opposition. Then, President Moon’s reforms will be implemented far more smoothly.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 8, Page 32

*The author is a political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

Shin Yong-ho
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