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Haste makes waste

July 21,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s reform drive is at full steam. Even though a five-year plan was announced Wednesday by a committee for state affairs planning, parts are already being pushed through. Following his first executive order to upgrade contract-based workers in the public sector to the permanent payroll, the administration put on hold the construction of two new nuclear power plants. The nation’s hourly minimum wage has been jacked up to 7,350 won ($6.50), the biggest increase in decades, and a nearly defunct consultative meeting aimed at rooting out corruption among officials has been revived.

All are reasonable policies. The discrimination in wages against contract workers should be stopped, the new administration’s push for a post-nuclear energy era should be welcomed, and corruption is still prevalent in the public sector and must be eliminated.

One problem might be in the dazzling speed of the government-led reforms. The Moon administration appears to be pressing ahead with such dramatic changes without fully taking into account their potential ramifications on our society and the economy. No one can find fault with a government that tries to push reforms before momentum starts to flag. But haste is haste.

Our presidential term is limited to five years. It is impossible for a president to reform all aspects of our society in such a period of time. The administration must go through the long and tedious process of persuading the public of the wisdom of its ideas. For instance, upgrading part-time workers to the permanent payroll would obviously help them. But it hurts others: it will increase people’s tax. The president said he would canvas public opinion about the suspension of the nuclear plant construction, but it is hardly responsible to leave the decision up to ordinary citizens disguised as a “civilian jury.” The sharp rise in the minimum wage has scared small and midsize businesses and mon-and-pop stores across the country. They will foot the bill.

We urge the Moon government to tackle challenges slowly and steadily. It must learn a lesson from the Democratic Party of Japan, which lost power after trying to raise a consumption tax to make up for massive fiscal losses after pushing populist welfare commitments.

The government must listen to diverse voices in our society, including the National Assembly, academic circles and civic groups. That’s the road to successful reforms.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 21, Page 30