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Devil’s in the details

June 14,2017
President Moon Jae-in kept his promise to be a communicative leader, addressing the public and National Assembly to pitch an 11.2 trillion won (9.92 billion) supplementary budget focused on creating jobs for young people and easing the lives of low-income earners. It was rare for a president to make a National Assembly speech just a month into office and personally plead for legislative support in creating a supplementary budget.

His move is commendable, even considering the extra budget is controversial as it includes an increase in public sector jobs that should be reviewed as part of a regular budget and comes amid a bottleneck in appointments of officials.

Moon’s speech was beyond the usual cut-and-dried tone of a presidential speech to the legislature. He cited the cases of a young man ending his life after losing hope while looking for a job and a firefighter who died from overwork in order to emphasize that ensuring decent work is a basic civilian right and that we are all entitled to happiness and dignity. His lamenting for the young generation, wandering toward a cliff of joblessness, has hit a nerve.

Moon’s speech touched the heart regarding the need for a supplementary budget, but fell short of convincing the head. He did not have clear answers to questions about financing for his campaign pledge to create 810,000 jobs in the public sector.

It is true that the country could run into a national disaster if unemployment problems are left unattended. It is also true that economic growth through corporate activities does not help much in increasing employment. But tax-financed job increases in the public sector also cannot be sustained. The supplementary budget appropriated only 8 billion won to increase this year’s recruitment in public employees.

As the people have not been told what comes next to keep the flow of jobs up, they have not been assured of the president’s will and direction on labor reforms so that companies can continue to make jobs.

Jobs have been mentioned 44 times and young people 33 times. But not once has the president talked about companies. The president steadfastly said the budget to create public-sector jobs is an “emergency” action. But the government must come up with more lasting policy to create future jobs.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 13, Page 30