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No apologies

Oct 23,2019
President Moon Jae-in’s nationally-televised address Tuesday in the National Assembly fell short of the public’s hope for a desperately needed change in the way he runs the country — particularly after the resignation last week of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk over a slew of allegations against his family. The president only expressed a determination to press ahead with his reforms of the prosecution without any apology for his controversial appointment of Cho despite the devastating impact his decision had on our society for more than two months. “The government tried to remove the elites’ privileges and violations of the law. But people wanted to root out such practices embedded into our systems in a fundamental way,” Moon said.

Cho stepped down 66 days after his appointment as suspicions about his family’s alleged corruption went beyond the realm of morality. The prosecution indicted his brother on charges of taking bribes and requested an arrest warrant for Cho’s wife on 11 charges, including creating fake documents for her daughter to gain admissions to top universities. And yet Moon showed too lax an attitude toward Cho’s family as if to brush off all the allegations as minor violations of the law. That’s a reaction out of sync with public sentiment.

Moon’s overly generous attitude was also revealed at a lunch with religious leaders the day before. At the meeting, he made remarks attributing the national divide to opposition parties. “A political battle over a public consensus on the need for reform caused conflict among people,” he said.

In an alarming sign, Moon once again stuck to his guns. He must kick off a drastic reshuffle of his aides in the Blue House to change the way he is running the country. At his inauguration, Moon vowed to become a “communicating head of state” to the extent of “briefing major issues to the press himself.” But he has held only three press conferences over the past two and a half years.

There is no big difference with former President Park Geun-hye, whom Moon criticized for a critical lack of communication with the public. As Moon emphasized, any challenges can be overcome with national integration. If he does not want to see his remaining term go adrift, he must communicate with the opposition.

Moon promised to “listen to various voices of the people.” We hope he means it, and changes his governing style if he really cherishes the value of communication as head of state.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 23, Page 34