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A blunt swansong

Dec 11,2018
Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon resigned from his post Monday. A career bureaucrat, he has played a key role as the top official in charge of the economy since the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration in May 2017.

In a farewell speech yesterday, he lashed out at the government’s ill-conceived economic policies as if to prove the friction he endured with core members of the Blue House during his service. He urged the government to have the courage to frankly tell the public about the tough economic situation facing the country and to implement unpopular policies demanding pain-sharing from the public. He also underscored the importance of objectively analyzing our economic conditions. “That is a starting point to address our economic hardship,” he said.

Nevertheless, the outgoing minister refrained from talking straight about a plethora of side effects from the government’s relentless push for increases in the minimum wage and a far-reaching cut of our workweek to 52 hours. He shied away from bluntly attacking the government for its bold and not very successful economic experiments. However, Kim’s swansong is strong evidence of the administration’s excessive adherence to ideology. As he said in the address, the government’s income-led growth policy has backfired, as seen in the alarming deterioration of income distribution and a reduction of jobs over the last 18 months.

Kim’s successor, Hong Nam-ki, would be very wise to pay heed to Kim’s advice when he takes over today. Hong, a veteran civil servant who has worked under both conservative and liberal administrations, raised concerns from the market by saying he did not agree with the description of our economy as “being in recession or crisis.” His perception of our economy is far from the way our ordinary citizens are feeling. It is fortunate that Hong promised in his confirmation hearing at the National Assembly last week that he would push forward economic policies by putting four agendas at the top of his priorities, including recovering our economic vitality and achieving a structural reform of the economy to ratchet up our competitiveness in the global market.

If Hong really wants to rejuvenate our economy, he must change the way he sees an economy that has been on a downward spiral since the liberal administration launched its overly ideological economic experiments. We hope the new economic chief shows the courage his predecessor demanded from him before leaving office.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 11, Page 30