One hand clapping

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One hand clapping

In his nationally televised New Year’s speech on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in vowed to go his own way this year — catering to his supporters instead of listening to his opponents. There was no sign of change to his reckless income-led growth or North Korea policies. The address seemed to be aimed at consolidating support among voters ahead of the Apr. 15 parliamentary elections.

Over half of his speech was devoted to economic and livelihood issues. He continued patting himself on the back without mentioning any policy shift this year. He said that 280,000 jobs were created last year and youth employment hit a record high for 13 years. He also underscored an “upturn in the bottom 20 percent group’s income.”

But the reality is an entirely different story. The administration’s hefty spending only increased jobs — and mostly part-time at that — for the elderly while jobs for people in their 40s — the backbone of our economy — declined for 25 consecutive months. While full-time jobs decreased, part-time jobs increased as a result of the government’s rapid hikes in the minimum wage. That’s not all. The low income bracket’s incomes only increased thanks to various types of government handouts. To put it differently, the government fixed its policy failures with taxes. The Korea Labor and Society Institute, a think tank, concluded that drastic increases in the minimum wage helped reduce — not raise — monthly incomes for lower income earners.

The government pays lip service to innovation, but look at what happened to doomed van-hailing service Tada due to stifling regulations. Hyundai Motor launched a car-sharing service in Los Angeles — not at home. An increasing number of companies are leaving Korea to find business opportunities. The people are suffering from the policy failures of the government rather than enjoying the fruits of solid economic and industrial policies. The government must take a U-turn.

While urging North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Seoul, Moon mentioned a long list of rosy inter-Korean projects such as co-hosting of the 2032 Olympics, forming a joint team for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and connecting South and North Korean railways. The word “denuclearization” was missing — even after Kim threatened to develop a “new strategic weapon” soon.

Moon said he chose change to meet a growing public demand to create a better country. To build a great nation, he must change. The future of this country depends on his abandoning politics designed to satisfy his supporters only.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 30

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