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A good start

May 15,2017
The new president has made a splash with his new and refreshing ways. The president carries his own tray in the cafeteria at the Blue House and has lunch amongst the general staff, a rare and refreshing sight for a weary public. The staff appeared to be uncomfortable with the presence of President Moon Jae-in, and yet it was a symbol of a departure from the authoritarian habits of his disgraced predecessor. In another scene, President Moon strolled with a group of aides with take-out coffees in their hands. The president and aides talking freely is, in fact, something the public longed to see after the years of Park Geun-hye, who had trouble talking to anyone outside her tight, inner circle.

Moon posts his daily schedule on his social media page. The contrast with his predecessor — even her aides did not know her whereabouts at times — was enough to raise hopes for a new type of leadership. Moon should go on sharing the presidential schedule with the public.

His appointments have also raised hopes. He appointed a woman as his secretary in charge of personnel and recruited a career bureaucrat as a secretary to oversee general affairs of the presidential office instead of a close aide. The conservative administrations under former presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye came under fire from their beginnings because the presidents surrounded themselves with loyalists. Moon has drawn lessons from the past and started off on the right foot.

But some moves have not been consistent. Moon said he would keep his secretariat to a minimum and give more authority to the cabinet. But from the structure so far, the presidential office has gotten bigger.

There are other hiccups. Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, reiterated that the president and government won’t meddle in prosecution probes. But Moon ordered the prosecution to reopen investigations into the sinking of the Sewol ferry and the power abuse scandal of his predecessor, who is already behind bars. He signed executive orders to repeal previous government’s policies on state publication of history textbooks and a ban on a controversial song as an official anthem for commemorations of the 1980 popular uprising in Gwangju. Although it is right to reverse unjust policies, they are not as urgent as the North Korean nuclear issue, job creation, and normalization of relations with neighboring countries. Moon won’t be able to draw necessary support from the conservative opposition if he only sets out to reverse policies from the past.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 13, Page 26