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A good 100th day

Aug 18,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s press conference on his 100th day in office was impressive. Although his predecessors, too, held press conferences at the same time in their terms, it was different this time. Moon had an unscripted press conference on Thursday. His decision to invite the press corps to a bigger room in the Blue House to accommodate more of them and create a more media-friendly atmosphere was a powerful demonstration of his willingness to communicate with the press, a sharp departure from former President Park Geun-hye.

Without knowing any questions in advance, Moon gave answers with confidence and conviction on a wide range of topics ranging from national security, diplomacy and politics to the thorny issues of former sex slaves and a revision of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. The image of Moon taking charge of the government confidently gave trust to the public, who looked forward to seeing a clear blueprint for the nation from him.

In particular, Moon’s vow to kick off a government-led amendment of our Constitution if a special committee in the National Assembly fails to reach an agreement deserves praise. Past administrations habitually chose not to revise the Constitution, citing disagreements between ruling and opposition parties. Moon’s firm intention to amend the Constitution will surely pressure politicians to reach a consensus ahead of a referendum during next year’s local elections.

But the press conference also prompted some regrets. We can hardly rid ourselves of skepticism about his approach to the North Korean problem. Of course, it was appropriate for the president to define the moment of North Korea loading nuclear warheads onto ICBMs as “crossing a red line” and warn Pyongyang not to engage in further provocations.

Nevertheless, we wonder if his considering the idea of sending a special envoy to North Korea was really appropriate even if some strings — “under the right circumstances” — were attached, as it could give Pyongyang exactly the wrong message.

His most hard-to-understand remarks came later in the conference. Moon shrugged off a series of appointment fiascos betraying his self-professed principle of not placing in top government posts those involved in draft dodging, real estate speculation and tax evasion. He seems to be outright ignoring public opinion, which cares very much about those misdeeds. Also, he was not able to fully explain what his argument for so-called “income-led growth” really means.

Regardless, Moon did a good job. No leader can satisfy all the people all the time. Yet being different does not mean being right. The only way to a successful presidency is the abandoning of self-righteousness and listening to opponents.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 18, Page 30