Stop disappointing the people

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Stop disappointing the people

 President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol have a dinner meeting today at the Blue House, 19 days after the March 9 election. Both sides said the meeting is being held after Moon conveyed his intent to meet Yoon “at the earliest date possible” and Yoon accepted it as it is important to “relieve the people of their worries” about cooperation between the outgoing and incoming power.

But we cannot but question what really stopped the two leaders from meeting earlier. If Yoon really wanted to talk with Moon “without any agenda,” why have both sides engaged in such a heated war of nerves over the meeting. And how could they address public concern over a game of chicken between the incoming and outgoing president?

During the standoff, the daily death toll from Covid-19 approached 500 and prices soared in the wake of the Ukraine war. North Korea crossed the red line by test-firing an advanced ICBM. Nevertheless, both sides clashed over the issues of relocating the presidential office to the Ministry of National Defense building and President Moon rushing to appoint top government posts before his term expires.

Moon and Yoon cannot afford to attach so much significance to the meeting itself. They must draw meaningful results from the meeting if they really want to ease deepening public concern. They must first find answers to ease security concerns from the North’s missile launch and address the economic crisis. The two also must reach a consensus on passing a 50-trillion-won ($40.8-billion) supplementary budget bill to help struggling self-employed business owners, as Yoon promised in his campaign. If they start to talk, they can narrow their gap over the relocation of the presidential office and the president’s appointments, too.

To untie this Gordian knot, Moon must take a forward-looking attitude. Despite the narrow margin of victory for Yoon, the voters chose him as head of state for the next five years. With only 42 days left in office, Moon must accept a new reality and cooperate with the incoming administration. Yoon also should be held accountable for the confrontation. If he still believes time is on his side, he cannot do anything when the ruling Democratic Party (DP) holds 172 seats in the 300-member legislature. Even if Yoon desires to implement his key campaign promises, it calls for an agreement from the DP. Yoon must show some flexibility in today’s meeting.

The DP and opposition People Power Party (PPP) repeatedly pledged “co-governance” and “no political revenge” during their presidential campaigns. Moon and Yoon must keep their promise. The people will not accept empty words anymore.
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