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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 12)

Politics 09:03 September 12, 2019

Moon is out of touch

President Moon Jae-in preached "fairness" in his message to the country ahead of the Chuseok holiday. "A vitalized economy will make us more abundant, a fair society more trustful and a peaceful Korean Peninsula more engaging," he wrote on his Facebook page. He added wishes for "a country as fair as the full moon that looks down equally upon us." He made a surprise phone call to a morning radio program Wednesday and expressed wishes that society can be more giving to our neighbors during the holiday period.

Moon's holiday wishes became the most searched on the internet. Responses were largely negative, expressing disappointment over his message out of tune with his actions as he had appointed Justice Minister Cho Kuk despite public outcry over various privileges he and his family enjoyed through their connections and high-profile social ranking. The public disgruntlement over Cho's audacity and contradictions is now being aimed at the president.

The president has been out of touch with public sentiment on numerous occasions. To address challenges from Japanese export curbs, he suggested joining forces with the North as an integrated or "peace" economy of the Korean Peninsula could make Korea outpace Japan. Following the allegation around Cho's daughter to build credentials for college admission, he proposed a revision to the college entrance system. In a ceremony confirming the candidates to cabinet seats, including Cho as the justice minister, he said "the more reform-minded the candidate is, the tougher the confirmation process." He found blame for everything else except for Cho. This is why the president is being criticism for keeping to his own world and drifting further away from broad public sentiment.

The president cannot narrow the distance with the people if he keeps to his exclusive inner circle. Moon has been chanting fairness, equality and justice, but such slogan no longer has public trust. He could face a great backlash if he takes public sentiment lightly.

The president should use the Chuseok break to study public sentiment. Instead of taking ceremonious visits to events, he should mingle amongst the real people and hear them out. In his inauguration speech, Moon vowed to serve each and every person as they are his people regardless of whether or not they had voted for him. He must not hesitate in seeking opinions from the opposition front. He cannot win back public support if he does not pay them attention.

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