Moon beats economic drum at cabinet meeting

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Moon beats economic drum at cabinet meeting

Economics was the primary issue discussed at President Moon Jae-in’s first cabinet meeting of the year.

But Moon also stressed the need for the government to be more proactive in combating the spread of false information at Tuesday’s meeting, which he said could mislead the public about government policies.

“One thing I would like to especially request is [for the government] to communicate and promote [government policies] with the public,” Moon said. “The goal of the government policy and strategy is to benefit the people.”

He said only when the public fully accepts and identifies with the policies will they gain momentum.

“Just working hard and silently churning out results is not enough,” Moon said.

“There’s a need to actively explain to the public when false information, such as fake news and information that distorts and undermines government policies, is raised from an early stage to resolve any misunderstanding,” Moon said. “The government needs to counter that with a strong determination against the organized distribution of persistent fake news.”

He said information - and especially false information - is spread these days at an alarming rate and it is important to act early.

The president’s comments came after former civil servants - one a former Blue House employee and another former employee of the Finance Ministry - turned whistle-blowers and made several serious charges against their former employers.

Former Finance Ministry employee Shin Jae-min accused the Blue House of pressuring the Finance Ministry to keep the national debt-to-GDP ratio elevated to make the previous administration look incompetent.

The claims by Shin were rebutted not only by the Finance Ministry, but by the current and former finance ministers.

The day after holding a press conference elaborating on his claims, Shin reportedly attempted suicide. The Finance Ministry has recommended his prosecution for leaking confidential information.

At the cabinet meeting, Moon once again emphasized the government’s need to listen to those who are working in the field.

“We should emphasize not results that are achieved on paper, but actual results that people can feel and accept [changes] in their economic activities and daily lives,” Moon said. “In order to do so I hope we find answers in the field.”

He said that if his first economic team decided on goals, the second economic team should focus on how to achieve those goals.

“And the means shouldn’t be limited to reports made by government departments, but rather from listening to people working on the ground and the young job seekers who are pleading to the government for help.”

Moon said the government should look at the opinions of various interest groups about policies and find ways to mediate their opposing positions.

Since late last year, Moon has been more public about the need to boost the economy, shifting focus from improving the relationship with North Korea. His administration has been heavily criticized for its income-led growth policies, mainly sharp minimum wage hikes, which cost jobs and hurt small businesses.

After new Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki took office in December, Moon held his first cabinet meeting in Sejong, where the Finance Ministry is headquartered.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the government passed several bills including industrial safety legislation that passed through the National Assembly at the end of last year, as well as extending the individual consumption tax cut on new car purchases for another six months.

The safety bill was tightened after a 24-year-old contract employee died while inspecting a conveyor belt alone at the Taean Thermal Power Plant.

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