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Detached from reality

May 11,2019
On the anniversary of his second year in office, President Moon Jae-in had an exclusive interview with KBS to reveal his thoughts about many issues. But his sense of reality was quite different from the general public’s. He demonstrated stark differences on the economy, in particular, by steadfastly justifying his policies, citing self-serving data without presenting concrete ways to tackle a plethora of challenges from the government’s bold economic experiments.

Moon hinted at the possibility of moderating the pace of his controversial income-led growth economic policies to reduce the fallout from the rapid hikes in the minimum wage. Yet he highlighted positive effects of the wage increases, making it clear he will not change his policy direction.

If the minimum wage goes up, low-income workers should benefit. But if the government pushes it too fast, the policy backfires because small business owners have to lay off workers to survive. As Moon said, the average per capita income of the fifth quintile group decreased to less than five times that of the first quintile group last year. However, the wealth gap rather deepened last year to the extent that household incomes of the fifth quintile group exceeded 13 times that of the first quintile group. That’s not all. Moon claimed that our youth jobless rate fell by a big margin in February and March even though it still surpasses 10 percent. Alarms are ringing on the exports front, but he claimed our exports and investments are rebounding.

If he sees what he wants to see, he cannot find solutions. Despite all the problems in offices across the country stemming from the government’s new 52-hour workweek, Moon simply hoped for the success of the new system.

Moon was noticeably weird about Korea-Japan relations, too. While stressing the significance of establishing a future-oriented relationship, he did not come up with feasible solutions — although he did blame Tokyo for problems. If he keeps blaming Japan, he will not find a breakthrough. It is time for him to make a courageous proposal to address the conflict.

Throughout the interview, Moon urged the public to trust his administration. At the same time, he emphasized the need for the government to formulate policies fitting Korea’s advanced position as a country with more than $30,000 per capita income and over 50 million in population. It is reckless to perform such audacious economic experiments on our economy. The people can’t wait three more years.