Allow a little criticismKim Kwang-doo, vice chairman of the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) and possibly the last conservative in the liberal Moon Jae-in administration, has offered to resign from office. Kim, an architect of Moon’s economic agenda since the election campaign, also acted as a critical voice to keep the economic policy in check. He has openly advised moderation on income-led growth.
The former Sogang University economics professor was invited to Moon’s campaign camp to help draw up an economic platform that could appeal to conservative voters. He has served as the vice chairman of the committee advising the president on economic strategies and policies since Moon was elected in May last year. He also guided former President Park Geun-hye in her presidential bids in 2007 and 2012. He fell out with Park after he pointed out the contradiction in her promise to increase welfare benefits without raising taxes.
Kim stayed equally critical of the Moon administration for its misguided understanding of the economic reality. When the Finance Ministry in May issued a statement congratulating the economy for having generated 3 percent growth in 2017, Kim warned that the economy was actually at the onset of a downturn. He demanded moderation in the minimum wage hike, pointing out the negative impact of the 16.4 percent spike from the beginning of the year. He also argued for an increase in flextime to offset the damages to production and workplaces from a universal cut in workweek hours. He advised the government to turn its attention to the supply end to quench the overheated housing market instead of focusing on clamping down on demand.
He was the most avid critic of income-led growth. In June, he wrote on his Facebook page that the economy was shaking at its roots. He sat down with Moon for a tête-à-tête to persuade the president to change direction. He criticized the government for trying to cover up policy failures with fiscal spending in September. Last month, he said a policy that is ruining jobs is not just.
Moon, in a ceremony marking Trade Day, stressed his vision to create an engaging society. He said increased exports would lead to increased jobs and improved livelihood. How can the government become engaging when it cannot even tolerate a critic? Without a reasonable voice, the government could go recklessly pushing a policy experiment.
JoongAng Sunday, Dec. 8, Page 34