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A mixed report card

Aug 17,2017
Today marks President Moon Jae-in’s 100th day in office. During that period, Moon successfully settled an unprecedented national crisis — President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and removal — and embarked on rooting out bad practices of the past, closely communicating with the public and pushing a peace initiative for the Korean Peninsula. His performance deserves praise considering his administration had to come into office without any transition period.

What attracts our attention is his ability to communicate with the people. He met with relatives of the victims of the Gwangju Democracy Movement and toxic humidifier sterilizers as well as survivors of the Japanese Army’s sexual enslavement during World War II to console their broken hearts. His full-fledged drive to end deep-rooted corruption among powerful agencies, including the National Intelligence Service and the criminal justice system, are also worth complimenting. Such efforts have contributed to his amazing approval rating, which is hovering at 80 percent.

Nevertheless, Moon is under criticism for pushing an economic agenda — which includes upgrading underprivileged non-salaried workers to the permanent payroll and raising the minimum wage — so fast that the foundations of our economy are being shaken. In fact, he had to backpedal on his promise to lower mobile phone bills. The government’s abrupt scrapping of nuclear power plants — including two under construction — is also under fire.

If a government forces our society to change too fast, it hurts workers and ordinary citizens. Moon’s inclination to appoint high-ranking officials primarily based on their ideological homogeneity also dents the public’s trust in him.

A crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats is testing Moon’s ability to safeguard our security. South Korea faces a major crisis due to the verbal threats between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump. Moon has not come up with realistic countermeasures. His zigzagging on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system is also chipping away at his approval ratings.

Moon’s report card shows mixed results. He must demonstrate an ability to talk with his opponents. With his ruling party commanding only 120 seats in the National Assembly, he cannot put into action his bold 100 national tasks. He must respect the opposition if he really wants to be remembered as a successful president.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 17, Page 30