Time is moneyPresident Moon Jae-in was full of sentimental rhetoric in his National Assembly address, comparing the financial crisis of 20 years ago to today’s economic might and strength and pointing out that the Korean economy has been mired in a structural slowdown and unemployment since the near-default crisis of the late 1990s.
He said the people have become fatigued by endless competition. As he made his exit, he stopped to shake hands with members of the opposition Liberal Korea Party, who had been holding banners to protest the government and Moon.
Also during the address, he reaffirmed his will to reform the Constitution. “It is best that we hold a referendum on the constitutional amendment when we hold local elections next year,” he said. He claimed it would not be easy to revive the momentum for reform if they miss the timing.
He did not specify the direction for reform, but indicated the outline should be to enhance civilian rights in tune with the changes of the times, strengthen sovereignty and the autonomy of local governments.
He also proposed to redesign the election system to better reflect the political opinions of voters. He argued that the time has arrived for a new state framework through changes in the 1987 Constitution and election establishments.
The president has, however, been too figurative. He should have been more straightforward in defining the scope and depth of the reforms, and laying the groundwork for discussions by proposing to restrict presidential power. But he merely set the deadline and passed on the responsibility to the legislature.
Moon talked at length about the economy, as the purpose of the National Assembly address was to explain next year’s budget. He stressed that budgeting and public policy have been focused on creating a better economy and improvements in income and people’s livelihoods.
He said next year’s budget will rise 7.1 percent to reach an all-time high of 429 trillion won ($385 billion), and claimed public finance is important to stimulate jobs for the young. But the stretches in the spending could strain public finance. The government proposal to hire 30,000 more government employees, make 80,000 public sector workers salary workers and put down 3 trillion won to raise the minimum wage will face scrutiny by the legislature. We hope these reforms will not be a waste of our time.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 3, Page 38