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Shake up the Blue House

Aug 14,2018
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Chun Young-gi
The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.

Public sentiment is like a savage beast that kills its trainer. Its attitude changes over the smallest matters, yet it is still normally treated with extreme attention.

Today’s public is fickle. President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating is 58 percent. The number speaks for itself. The heat wave is not the issue. People’s livelihoods are at stake.

“The reactionary conservative forces are quietly looking for an opportunity to turn things around,” said Lee Hae-chan, one of the candidates for the Democratic Party leadership. “They are using the minimum wage issue as a scapegoat for an economic crisis.” His remarks are irresponsible and wrong. It is typical of the ruling party to blame “reactionary conservative forces” for everything and react passionately to the claim.

The current economic crisis did not come because of a conspiracy by “reactionary conservative forces.” It was rooted in government policies from the past year and three months. It was created by combining the unrealistic direction of the Blue House and the absurd socialist imagination of the ruling party that even embraces the idea of nationalization of land. State-controlled income-led growth, an unreasonable nuclear phase-out and hindering the fourth industrial revolution are the three main reasons for the economic crisis.

On the streets of Gwanghwamun, small business owners are facing a crisis because of the minimum wage hike and expressing their pains. “Why is the government treating only laborers as citizens? We are also this country’s citizens,” they said. Unlike labor unions, they have rarely lodged collective complaints.

The ruling party and liberal civic groups which have acted as servants of the labor unions must stop their play of justice and visit more shops. The Moon administration says it is a government for the ordinary people, but the ordinary people are suffering more. It claims to be an administration of jobs, but jobs are decreasing. When they visit shops, they can feel the suffering and pain.

Moon is probably the most shocked by his fall in approval rating. Aides who caused the failure can find new jobs, but the president has nowhere to hide during his five-year term. He must accept responsibility from beginning to end.

The Blue House has about 500 aides, even more than the White House, but the president is lonely. After his two predecessors were jailed one after another without legislation of any special law, the responsibility of a president’s errors went behind the boundaries of policy and history. Korea has created a special environment where any mistake will lead to criminal punishment.

If his aides report that his approval rating is still higher than the second-year rating of his predecessors, that is the classic argument of a disloyal subject. It is not something that Moon should find comfort in.

The president’s extremely high approval rating during his first days in office came from his warm and humble character, a mood of peace on the Korean Peninsula and normative means to swiftly clear up “accumulated evils” in our society. But the people are now accustomed to his character. Denuclearization is seeing little progress, and there are no new things to clean up. He must find a realistic way to boost his popularity.

The breakthrough will come from a shift in policies and a reshuffle. When his approval rating started to drop, Moon made a public promise to revive internet banks, and that was an extremely clever move. Many people were optimistic about the news. Internet banks are the best way to shake up the financial sector, which has become a giant monster that has no interest in innovation.

Internet banks are like the exploratory ship that will lead us to the new continent that is the fourth industrial revolution. That brave new world includes fintech platforms and blockchain. In the new continent of the fourth industrial revolution, ethics and values of the old, such as conglomerates, the middle class, the establishment, youngsters, students, the Democratic Party and the Liberty Korea Party are meaningless.

A reshuffle is the best way to ensure policy shifts. That is the reason why Moon must shake up the Blue House, to make up for his poor performance report. If he replaces just one or two key aides who led his ideological and normative policies with realists, the mood toward the Democratic Party and government will drastically change.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 13, Page 30