09.25 Tue

Opinion

How to kill jobs

Aug 21,2018
Chun Young-gi
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

There are two major culprits for the tailspin threatening the Korean economy. The first is the Moon Jae-in government’s cherished income-led growth policy. The second is its maniacal drive to phase out nuclear-generated power. These two policies have caused a major crisis. Statistics Korea announced that 27.08 million people were employed in July 2018, up just five-thousand from the same period last year. The growth rate is nearly zero percent. In order to meet the need for jobs for young people, there should be about 300,000 new jobs every month. The number dropped to 100,000 last February, and dwindled to 5,000 in July. That giant sucking sound you hear are jobs disappearing for our younger generation.

Immediately after his inauguration ceremony 15 months ago, President Moon started making high profile moves to address employment issues. The administration said jobs were the main reason for its very existence, but it hardly looks that way now. Former President Park Geun-hye, who was cruelly labeled as an evil from the past by the Moon administration, actually did far better when it comes to jobs. In July 2014, 25.97 million people were employed, up by 505,000 from the same period in the previous year. The growth rate was 2 percent, and there were only 912,000 unemployed.

For the second July of his presidency, Moon’s administration created 5,000 new jobs. For the second July of her presidency, Park created 505,000. Park’s performance is 100 times higher. Currently, the world economy is in good shape and the United States, Japan and China are actually lacking in manpower. Korea needs more jobs. Park’s presidency came in the wake of the global economic meltdown. This means that Moon has no excuse, certainly not from outside Korea. The government spent 30 trillion won ($26.7 billion) to boost jobs, and the money went up in smoke. And yet, no one is taking responsibility. Is this really a country that knows what it’s doing?

An emergency meeting at the National Assembly of members of the government, ruling party and Blue House felt like a rerun of a presidential show meant to impress the public. Theatrical politics is touching first time around, but nobody likes a rerun.

The people elected the president. Moon is responsible to the people. But the president seems to care for his aides too much to judge them properly. This can become a betrayal of the people. He must coolly hold accountable aides who impoverished the people.

The administration’s so-called income-led growth policy failed due to the reckless and aggressive implementation of two minimum wage hikes. Although the government said it was a matter of policy, increasing the minimum wage indiscriminately — regardless of region, industry or size of the businesses — at such a speed is a kind of state violence directed at the economy. It is the main culprit of the woeful labor statistics we saw in July. Jang Ha-sung, the president’s policy chief, and Labor Minister Kim Young-joo are responsible. For them, the minimum wage issue is not merely a policy about the economy. It is a kind of forbidden fruit that no one can ever touch.

While the minimum wage policy is the main culprit in the jobs situation, an overzealous attempt to wean Korea off nuclear power has taken a big toll, too. It is causing the destruction of an industry, obstruction of exports, collapse of a component supply network, increase in electricity prices and downfall of the relevant fields of academia. The idea of nuclear phase-out has become another sacred totem for the Moon administration, not merely an energy policy.

Fundamentalist environmentalists are sitting in top positions and controlling the nation’s energy policy. Kim Su-hyun, senior presidential secretary for social policy, and Moon Mi-ok, presidential adviser for science and technology, are serving as the high priests of the nuclear phase-out cult, and Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu is their executor.

Because of the minimum wage policy and the cult of a nuclear phase-out, jobs disappeared. Now is the time to shift those policies. The only way to do so is changing the president’s aides. It may be belated, but the failed aides must be kicked out. That is the people’s order and the president’s job.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 30
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