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Moon recovers stamina after four days of rest

President skipped all public appearances last week to fight cold
July 02,2018
President Moon Jae-in expects to return to work today after taking Thursday, Friday and the weekend off due to illness. The first item on his schedule is a meeting with his prime minister.

The Blue House said Moon had come down with a cold after returning from a three-day state visit to Russia on June 24. His doctor believes the cold might have been caused by fatigue from the trip and recommended Moon take a few days off to recover.

It was the first time that the Blue House revealed the state of Moon’s health since he took office in May last year. Although the president officially requested Thursday and Friday off, he skipped all his public appearances last week and instead issued statements when necessary, sparking rumors about his health.

Moon’s agenda today includes a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and another meeting with senior aides at the Blue House. He will likely share a few words about his expectations for newly elected officials in local governments, who began their terms on Sunday after winning the elections on June 13. Many have their swearing-in ceremonies today.

At his meeting with senior aides, there will be three new faces: Yoon Jong-won, the senior secretary for economic affairs; Jung Tae-ho, the senior secretary for job creation; and Lee Yong-sun, the senior secretary for civil affairs. All three were appointed to their positions on Tuesday in the Blue House’s first reshuffle of the secretariat since Moon took office.

The reshuffle came after a sobering May jobs report. The country added the fewest number of jobs in nearly a decade, and youth unemployment reached an all-time high. Concern about the economy’s direction has apparently hit the Blue House’s policymaking team, which saw the need for a reset.

One major pillar of Moon’s economic agenda - the 52-hour workweek - went into effect on Sunday and will serve as a test for his policies. The intended goal is to improve the work-life balance of overworked Koreans and encourage businesses to hire more hands. The previous workweek limit was 68 hours. Companies that violate this policy could face penalties of up to 20 million won ($17,960), and managers could face a prison sentence of up to two years.

The policy went into effect for companies with more than 300 employees and will gradually be applied to smaller businesses over the next three years. Companies have rebuked the policy, saying it would add financial burden with the extra hires, lower productivity and delay projects. The government has since announced a six-month grace period where there will be no legal punishments for violators.

Moon is also expected to begin preparations for another overseas trip to Singapore, which hosted the historic summit between the North Korean and U.S. leaders on June 12. The visit will happen this month, though the Blue House has yet to announce a date.

Another diplomatic event that is on Moon’s mind is U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled visit to Pyongyang on Friday. The Financial Times reported last week that Pompeo will push the Trump administration’s efforts to force North Korea to denuclearize.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]