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LKP chief accuses Moon of statism

Aug 01,2018
Kim Byung-joon, the interim chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, has made the issue of excessive government control the core of his criticism of the Moon Jae-in government.

Kim, a former policy director for President Roh Moo-hyun, for whom President Moon Jae-in was chief of staff, issued stinging remarks about some of Moon’s policies, contending they are so heavy handed they are eroding the public’s liberties and its ability to decide what is good or bad for them.

Kim’s criticism of what he called statism was made Monday, and specifically assailed the government’s stance that it would consider regulating television and online food programs to combat obesity.

Programs featuring hosts eating a variety of dishes have gained popularity in recent years, and are called mukbang, a combination of the words “eating” and “program” in Korean.

“People are not dumb,” snapped the former professor of public administration at a meeting with members of the LKP’s emergency committee Monday. “The notion that a state needs to control mukbang programs is straight out of statism ideology.

“We are not living in the Joseon Dynasty anymore,” he continued. “Why should the government intervene in the private market to the extent of [regulating] mukbang?”

Kim’s criticism of the Moon government’s attitudes first centered on its decision to ban vending machines selling coffee at elementary, middle and high schools.

In his first press conference as LKP interim leader on July 18, Kim said if the late President Roh had received such a proposal, he would veto it right away because he would have deemed it excessive government interference, a stinging rebuke of Moon’s Blue House, which considers itself the successor to the Roh government that governed the country from 2003 to 2008.

Kim is trying to distinguish political differences between those in power and the LKP.

Korea’s conservatives, which includes the LKP, have long embraced anti-North Korea and free-market positions as defining principles.

But it remains to be seen whether or not Kim’s attack on the Moon government will resonate with the public, especially those who are fed up with the conservatives’ advocacy of national security and its anti-North Korea position.

Rep. Lee Hae-chan, who is running for the DP’s chairmanship, said Kim was cherry-picking some policies to assert excessive state control.

“It is not appropriate to define the whole picture by just taking very micro aspects of it,” the seven-term lawmaker said Sunday.

The approach by Kim, who has never held elected office, could resonate with centrist voters, especially as the Moon government’s so-called income led growth strategy seems to be making the employment situation worse rather than better.

But if the public does not respond to Kim’s rhetoric on a nanny state and the LKP’s approval ratings stay below the 20 percent level, Kim’s leadership could be challenged. Kim was appointed by the LKP leadership to salvage it from its worst electoral performance ever in the June 13 local elections.

While Kim took the helm of the party as interim leader on July 17, the questions of how long he will keep his job and when the LKP will elect a leader through a party convention remain up in the air.

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