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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 3)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 09:28 November 03, 2018

Moon's speech shows idle view of economic crisis

President Moon Jae-in addressed the National Assembly Thursday to seek its approval for the government's 470 trillion won ($412 billion) budget for 2019, up 9.7 percent from this year.

This marks the third time the President has spoken at the Assembly since he took office in May 2017. It was good that Moon came to the Assembly to explain the main policy objectives for the coming year and ask for the parties' support, as he has faced mounting calls to work together with lawmakers. However, the speech let down many Koreans who were looking to hear some concrete steps about how the President will improve the people's livelihood and create more jobs amid protracted low growth and the grave unemployment situation.

The key phrase of his speech was "living well together." Moon said that while Korea had achieved an economic miracle that is the envy of the world, it has been dealt one of the world's most serious economic divide. "We cannot go back to the old ways that aggravate economic disparity," Moon said. "The state should take care of the people's entire lives. We must become a country where no one is discriminated against. This is an inclusive state where everyone lives well. This is the path we should follow." The President's focus on the inclusive state implies that he will push ahead with his economic policy initiatives, such as income-led growth and a fair economy.

Another problem is that the President showed his lack of perception of the reality. The 2019 budget proposal includes an increase in childcare and the basic pension for the elderly. To sell his point, he introduced the case of a hypothetical family, a working married couple expecting a child. "In an inclusive state, pregnancy and childcare is a joy for both the family and the country," Moon said. He explained that starting next year, women with irregular positions will also be able to receive childbirth subsidies and fathers will get a longer paid childcare leave. These will do little to change the reality for Korean couples who shun having children due to the excessive cost and various other difficulties, such as proper childcare facilities.

The biggest fault with the President's speech was that he did not speak enough about how to achieve innovation in the corporate sector and promote new industries, which are crucial in expanding the job market. Moon only said that some 23.5 trillion won will be spent for job creation. His message, centered on building "inclusive growth," did not convince the people at all that their lives will be significantly better than this year.

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