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Candidate Moon had the moves

The president’s approval rating is over 80 percent but that could change.
June 19,2017
President Moon Jae-in was impressively passionate during the presidential campaign. When he was told that Ahn Cheol-soo was trying to recruit Park Young-sun and Byeon Jae-il, he immediately met with Park. Park, a four-term lawmaker, had supported Ahn Hee-jung in the Democratic Party primary and had been antagonized by Moon supporters. Moon had dinner with Park for over two and a half hours and another meeting on the next day to persuade her, and Park promised to help Moon’s campaign. It was a breakthrough in the presidential campaign. Park toured contested districts in the Honam region as Moon’s surrogate, and lawmakers who had supported Ahn Hee-jung in the primary followed. Ahn Cheol-soo’s ratings began to decline. People’s Party members panicked and told Ahn they must recruit Park Young-sun. However, Ahn was reluctant to bring in a lawmaker from another party as he championed a so-called new brand of politics. His defeat was decided at that moment.

Moon embraced all factions and camps. He appeared at a restaurant where a senior member of the former ruling party was dining, asked for a drink and pleaded to join his camp. “I will always consult you on politics when I become president.” The senior politician declined, but Moon only retreated when he promised not to join the rival camp, if not helping Moon. a few days later, he received a message from family, “You’d better come home late, as Moon Jae-in is waiting nearby.” He was surprised and came home after midnight. “Moon has amazing tenacity.”

President Moon can get out of his quagmire of cabinet appointments by recruiting qualified and competent people, as he had approached every type of politician during the election campaign. Democratic Party lawmakers say that the opposition party wouldn’t protest so unreasonably had the president made the kind of efforts he did as a candidate. If the opposition party had been informed in advance about designating Lee Nak-yon the prime minister or had been asked for approval from multiple candidates for major ministries, the situation would have been smoother.

However, the president is not compromising with the opposition party, and Presidential Secretary for political affairs Jun Byung-hun and Democratic Party lawmakers are busy communicating with the opposition. However, the People’s Party, where many served more than three terms, are not convinced by Secretary Jun, a three-term lawmaker. The Democratic Party floor leadership asked members who served more than four terms to list the names of People’s Party lawmakers they are friendly with. The ruling party members are to persuade People’s party members on president’s ministerial appointments. However, the opposition parties are angry at the president for exercising his appointment power even though the National Assembly failed to adopt a hearing report on the nominee. The Democratic Party does not have the policy-making power, and the ruling party lawmakers cannot convince the opposition with old friendship.

Five years ago, non-Moon faction lawmakers of the Democratic Party did not, or could not, help Moon’s campaign. At campaign events, organizers arranged only pre-selected speakers to be on stage, and non-Moon faction lawmakers were not allowed to give addresses to their constituencies. Strong-headed Kang Chang-il was an exception. He went up on the stage and claimed that he was the best man to speak to his constituents. The party was disorganized, and it was only natural that Moon lost the election.

However, in the last presidential election, Moon engineered a landslide victory by recruiting help from across the spectrum. This is only the beginning. As the ruling party has only 120 seats in the assembly, Moon should continue his efforts to bring the nation together. His approval rating is over 80 percent, but that could change. Once the president pushes his agenda with solid ratings, the public may begin to change. Making concessions and asking for help from opposition parties could save President Moon, who earned 41 percent of the votes in the election, and the ruling party, which holds 40 percent of the National Assembly.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 16, Page 34

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Kang Chan-ho