Learning little

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Learning little

 The ruling party’s crushing defeat in the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan says it all. The voters demanded a colossal revamp in the way the Moon Jae-in administration has been running the country over the past four years. In a poll conducted ahead of the elections, only 5 percent wanted no change from the government. 35 percent demanded a complete reversal of its policies and 51 percent asked for a partial revision.

The reaction of the president in a special meeting on Monday to check the government’s campaign against Covid-19 was dumbfounding. In the meeting, Moon attributed a lack of vaccines in Korea to “global shortages of supplies” and “vaccine nationalism.” He demonstrated strong confidence in acquiring vaccines, including from domestic producers commissioned to produce vaccines by Big Pharma.

We wonder whether he is really aware of the price Koreans are paying for the government’s dropping of the ball in purchases of vaccines from the beginning. Policymakers are calling for a ban on exports of the vaccines whose production was entrusted to Korean contractors.

We are also dumfounded by the reason Moon cited for his presiding over an expanded economic meeting for the third time since taking office in 2017. He said he will hold the meeting on Thursday to “command the national agenda.” The Blue House explained it meant that the president himself would take care of the economy, but it sounds like a doubling down on his past economic policies, which did little for the people.

A reshuffle is an indicator of a policy shift, but there is no sign of that. If the government wants to show sincerity, it should bring some new faces in. But people on the list were mentioned even before last week’s by-elections. There was no mention of launching a “neutral cabinet” ahead of the next presidential election in March. Instead, the president wants his controversial aides to keep their positions in the Blue House. Candidates for prosecutor general also are from pro-government prosecutors. We are disappointed at such a narrow pool of talent in the government.

Regrettably, the Democratic Party (DP) is no exception. Even after its overwhelming defeats in the by-elections, most of the bidders for the leadership of the party are members of the pro-Moon group. The demand for change from its first-term lawmakers is being effectively suppressed by hard-liners. Election results are a barometer of public sentiment. But Moon’s aides still believe they did nothing wrong even after they were given a drubbing by the voters. The president’s record low approval rating of 32.6 percent says it all.
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