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Moon’s populist pledges

Mar 21,2017
Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Democratic Party and frontrunner in the polls ahead of the May 9 presidential election, is coming up with one populist campaign promise after another. His vows to safeguard the rights of a certain interest group went too far. At an event to launch a confederation of civil servants unions last Saturday, he pledged to immediately scrap the performance-based evaluation and pay systems in the government if he is elected president. At first, he said he would reconsider the system from the beginning. But after he was asked by the host, Moon immediately accentuated his agreement to the request.

Moon also stressed that he would fully implement, if elected president, eleven proposals from the joint government workers unions that their political activities, including their admission to political parties, be protected, for example. He also assured them of their right to take part in negotiations with the government when it tries to re-organize itself. We cannot but wonder if he really wants to make this country a paradise for labor unions in the public and private sectors.

The performance-based salary system was adopted to revitalize the laid-back culture of government workers, which still enables them to receive hefty public pensions after retirement despite their lax work ethics. The system was adopted by the 119 public corporations under the central government by the end of 2016 and was applied to all senior-level government employees (above the fifth grade) from January of this year.

Regardless of many policy mistakes under the Park Geun-hye administration, the next government must continue to push forward government reforms. But Moon made a big mistake by promising civil servants a return to the seniority-based pay system. Is he willing to confront public anger and resistance against the idea?

At another event Sunday in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, Moon said that the government’s ongoing restructuring of the shipbuilding sector must not exacerbate workers’ pain. That’s nothing but an empty slogan for those workers in empty shipyards. It would benefit them more to provide them with such practical solutions as retraining programs and job transfers.

Moon is surely ahead of the pack in nonchalantly accommodating labor unions’ requests wherever he goes. We hope he demonstrates a mature image of a politician — if he is really a frontrunner — for the sake of the nation. Instead of abusing populist commitments, he must first pay attention to the socially underprivileged outside the system.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 21, Page 30