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Moon remains sanguine on his economy policies

President says he will ‘lean in’ to listen to advice from others
May 15,2019
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President Moon Jae-in, center, attends an SME event with Park Young-sun, Minister of SME and Startups, in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
President Moon Jae-in said he is open to suggestions on economic policy, but claimed his income-led growth policies are doing pretty well.

“[I will] lean in further to listen to the voices of businessmen on issues that need a grand social compromise, from minimum wages and flexible working hours to the 52-hour workweek,” Moon said at a small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) event on Tuesday in Seoul.

“When looking at it overall, our economy is moving forward to success,” Moon added. “Our SMEs are also creating miracles every day.”

The president said that while companies may not immediately feel the positive effects of the government’s economic policies, fundamental changes take time.

“There could be a temperature difference between [economic] statistics and [what is felt] in the field,” Moon said.

The president stressed the importance of his economic policies and their broader goals.

“When SMEs succeed, jobs and household incomes grow and the people lead better lives,” Moon said. “When lives improve, spending grows and this vitalizes small businesses [like restaurants and mom and pop stores].”

He said when the national economy grows, the market expands and more companies will be able to enjoy success.

“I believe the answers are in the field,” he added. “Our government in the first year introduced our economic policy direction and in the second year we started turning the country around to become innovative and inclusive. And in the third year, we plan on seeing [these efforts] bear fruit so that [businesses] in the field can actually feel [the difference.]”

Moon has often been considered too optimistic on the economy.

During a televised interview last week to mark his second anniversary in office, when he was asked about his so-called income-led growth policies, Moon said the situation of people in lower income households has improved because of them.

“This I would like to point out,” Moon said. “Through the increase in the minimum wage, those who at least have jobs have improved significantly,” Moon said.

“The ratio of low-income workers has gone down to an all-time low and the wage gap between the top tier and the bottom tier among people employed has been narrowed to a new record.”

He said that as of March, 520,000 people have been subscribed to employment insurance, indicating that more people are now in the employment safety net.

“On the other hand, people running their own businesses or workers on the bottom level are continuing to struggle, and it breaks my heart that we haven’t been able to solve this issue,” Moon said. “If only we were able to simultaneously raise the social safety net and the minimum wage, we could have lifted some of those difficulties.”

He blamed the National Assembly for failing to pass laws that would help small businesses or increase labor-related subsidies for lower income households.

During a cabinet meeting that was televised to all Blue House staff on Monday, Moon said the government needs to be more aggressive in promoting the positive effects of the income-led growth policy.

“[The government] needs to strengthen communication with the National Assembly and make efforts to pass bills and budgets so that the policies could be realized swiftly through aggressive administration,” Moon said.

He also demanded the stepping up of policy promotions, especially on those who should benefit from the policies.

“It means nothing if the results don’t follow,” Moon said.

This wasn’t the first time Moon demonstrated an unshaken belief in his economic policy, even when data suggested otherwise.

Last August, Moon was accused of misreading the economic situation when he made a similar comment about how income-led growth policies had contributed to improving the incomes of lower-tier households, which contradicted the government’s own statistics.

Even the 52-workweek has been criticized as bus drivers threatened to strike on concerns of lower wages due to shorter working hours.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]