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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 9)

All News 06:59 June 09, 2017

President's first month
: People need stronger assurance on jobs, national security

A month has passed since the May 9 election of President Moon Jae-in. Voters had high hopes for the new President, who rose to power following the removal of former President Park Geun-hye from office, March 10.

Moon's 80 percent-range job approval rating at the beginning of his term shows the people's strong support for the liberal leader's reform drive after the disastrous failures of the previous administration. His rating shot up to 87 percent after an emotional embrace during a memorial ceremony earlier this month with a woman whose father was killed during the May 18, 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement. Many people were moved with the President's sincerity toward easing the people's sufferings. The first couple's down-to-earth personalities have also won much praise on social media.

Since taking office, Moon has brought some noticeable changes. The best thing that Moon has done so far is normalizing the way the President communicates with the public and the press. Moon's Cheong Wa Dae is certainly different from that of Park, who was notorious for shunning contact with even her close aides and often seemed aloof to the people's hardships.

It is particularly noteworthy that President Moon and his aides have eagerly embraced encounters with the press, which reflects the President's determination to conduct state affairs in a more transparent manner. Moon announced some of his key personnel decisions in a media briefing at Cheong Wa Dae, including the nomination of former South Jeolla Province Governor Lee Nak-yon as his first prime minister. Moon's determination to empower women by nominating women to key posts such as the foreign minister is also laudable.

While the above-mentioned changes have helped Moon become a popular leader, they have little to do with assuring the people of his competence.

The people will judge presidential competence based on what he does to improve the economy and the peoples' lives, in addition to how he deals with national security issues. It is worrisome that Moon still sometimes behaves like a candidate making populist pledges. For example, the President has stressed that he will open an "era of zero irregular workers" in the public sector without detailing how this can be done. It is also problematic that some of his job-related proposals, such as raising the minimum wage, were conceived without considering the position of businesses.

There has been mounting concern on Moon's capacity to advance Korea's interests in national security and diplomacy as well. More people are becoming apprehensive about how Moon will improve relations with the U.S. despite his reluctance on the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, and quell China's resolute opposition to this at the same time. The President's conviction for the need to talk with North Korea also seems ill-timed given Pyongyang's repeated military provocations. Last but not least, the President lacks a sense of reality in approaching some lingering diplomatic issues, such as the Korea-Japan bilateral agreement on the so-called comfort women.

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