Patting his own backPresident Moon Jae-in was self-congratulatory in his legislative address on Monday with six months left in his term. He claimed Korea’s Covid-19 response has become an international standard and touted that the country has outpaced other countries in its vaccination rate despite a slow start. The country’s estimated average growth rate is strongest among developed nations and exports have been at a record high. He also cited an increase in public sector jobs, cut in workweek hours and raise in minimum wage as his achievements. He thanked the people for their show of support to fight a national crisis. “We will do our best to beat the crisis till the end.”
It is true that economic indicators have turned positive. But many complain their livelihoods worsened under the Moon government. Despite a promise to rein in real estate prices, they have surged as the result of policy failures. Buying a home has become almost impossible as prices have nearly doubled. Homeowners cannot be happy. One out of four apartments in Seoul are subject to comprehensive property ownership taxes that were imposed on owners of multiple properties in the past. The appraised values, the basis for taxation, have surged, a kind of masked tax hike. A land minister with no experience in the area has not been replaced despite 20 sets of failed policies. Moon briefly mentioned real estate in his speech, saying it remains the “biggest problem.” No kidding.
Moon also congratulated himself for turning a war-like situation at the beginning of his term into peace with North Korea. He has “paved the way for peace” through three inter-Korean summit meetings and U.S.-North Korea summits. North Korea however has been continuing with military provocations. North Korea fired off missiles 35 times under Moon’s time in office, more than 26 recorded during the administration of President Park Geun-hye. Moon is hoping to resume talks on jointly declaring an end to the Korean War, but Pyongyang has yet to respond.
The most important task left for Moon lis to keep political neutrality ahead of the presidential election. Moon has scorned the vice industry minister for ordering ministry officials to come up with projects that can help the ruling party candidate and ceased to hold senior meetings with the ruling party. Still the justice ministry and public administration ministries overseeing corruption investigations involving presidential candidates are under ministers who used to be ruling party politicians. Moon has not replaced them. Moon is also scheduled to meet ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung. The most important duty for the outgoing president is ensuring a fair election and neutrality.