Snoozy town hall

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Snoozy town hall

The Moon Jae-in administration, entering the second half of a five-year presidential term, should have learned an important lesson from the president’s “dialogue with the people” on Tuesday. The televised town hall-style meeting with 300 selected people that lasted nearly two hours was agonizingly long, distracting and frustrating. One viewer claimed to have “aged three years” by watching it. The program received poor notices from the ruling party camp as well as the opposition forces.

The president and his aides must humbly listen to these critical voices. Moon promised to be different from past “overbearing” and almighty presidents. He vowed to mingle with citizens regularly by moving his office from the shrouded Blue House to the downtown streets of Gwanghwamun, meeting directly with the press and stopping by marketplaces to talk to citizens on their way home. His promises of a warm and communicative president comforted the people who were betrayed by his predecessor, who stayed aloof and ran her government through a clandestine and creepy inner circle. Many may feel betrayed by Moon’s unsatisfying dialogue on Tuesday night.

He should meet with the press more often. Over 300 presidential correspondents are stationed at the press office at the Blue House, but they hardly get a chance to meet the president. The U.S., Japanese and other foreign leaders talk to their press regularly. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters whenever he enters and leaves the prime ministerial office. U.S. President Donald Trump also talks to the press regularly, even if he does not like them.

If the president does not meet with the press more often, an annual dialogue with the people can become more pretentious or artifice. The president presented himself as gentle and compassionate, but failed to provide answers to policy questions and his future direction. His aides explained the unscripted nature disturbed a smooth flow of the discussion.

But self-explanation is not all there is to communication. Former President Roh Moon-hyun preferred to explain sticky issues directly to the press. If Moon seriously wants to do better in the second half of his term, he must get closer to the press and the people.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 30
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