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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 11)

All News 07:11 January 11, 2019

President's New Year message lacks substance

President Moon Jae-in's New Year press conference at Cheong Wa Dae, Thursday, failed to meet the expectations of the Korean people who were looking for some concrete responses to key issues the nation is facing as he enters a critical phase of his presidency.

The occasion was different from previous presidential media events as Moon did not use a script and chose questions on the spot. But it was unsuccessful because of the lack of sincerity in his answers.

The President should have used the occasion to reassure the people, above all, of his resolve to turn the economy around by better responding to their concerns. It was regretful that Moon spent too much time talking about inter-Korean affairs. The people wanted to hear more about crucial areas that are closely linked to their livelihoods, such as jobs, education and healthcare, among other domestic issues.

One of the biggest problems was that Moon made it clear that he will not deviate from his failing economic policies geared toward income-led growth, which has been heavily criticized for the adverse affects on small business owners and low income earners.

Many of Moon's answers showed a lack of his grasp on reality and a disregard for the people's sentiment. He dodged a reporter's question about where his confidence in his economic policies comes from when the people's livelihoods are not getting any better. This gave the impression that he was not open to criticism. Moon said that he will continue to focus on building an "innovative, inclusive state" based on his policies for income-led growth, saying that he will aim to convince the people this year that he is going in the right direction. But he did not provide a sufficient explanation about how he will lift the hopeless job market, improve the quality of jobs and support companies' push for job creation and new technologies.

There were also some problems in his remarks regarding North Korea. He said that he welcomed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's support for resuming some joint economic projects involving Mount Geumgang and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in his New Year speech last week. Kim said that he was willing to restart them "without condition," but many Koreans doubt his motive and do not see North Korea as a reliable economic partner.

The President was vague and seemed to deny responsibility when faced with questions about the latest scandals involving Cheong Wa Dae. The right thing to do was to apologize for causing the people concerns over various allegations of illegal surveillance or abuse of power over ministries that have seriously hampered public trust in his administration.

The event came as Moon began his third year in office and with public opinion turning increasingly negative toward his administration. Time is running out for him to achieve the goals he first set out when he arrived in office. The least Moon can do is to admit his failures so far and remain open to new suggestions and correct his path when necessary.

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