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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 21)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 06:59 November 21, 2019

Moon's self-confidence
Town hall meeting didn't impress critics

President Moon Jae-in had a two-hour town hall meeting, Tuesday, with 300 people chosen from 16,000 applicants in the audience, which was broadcast live.

As he appeared, the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" was played in the hall. The song, chosen by moderator Bae Chul-soo, a popular radio host, was exactly about what politicians here are devoid of. It was a well-coordinated show to enhance Moon's public image at a time when he faces grave challenges on multiple fronts. But it was good for him to create the opportunity to show the direction of core government policies to the public, and share his ideas and vision after entering into the latter half of his single five-year term.

What is clear is that this kind of show won't impress critics and political opponents. They won't agree that Moon is good at communication. To some, he is an evil-minded leader who is ruining the country. Indeed, the sharpening ideological division and the routinized all-or-nothing political fights will haunt Moon for the remainder of his term. Sadly, however, the liberal President doesn't seem to realize that he is the one who should assume the biggest responsibility for the political situation, and also holds the key to restoring partnership with the conservatives. Hours after the show, main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn began an indefinite hunger strike near Cheong Wa Dae to protest what the party claimed was Moon's "total policy failures" in politics, the economy, national security and diplomacy.

One major source of contention is Moon's plan to reform the prosecution and establish an independent investigative unit specialized in handling corruption cases involving high-ranking civil servants and their families. This originally was based on a social consensus that the deep-rooted collusion between senior prosecutors and politicians, and corruption among bureaucrats and politicians have become serious problems. However, the LKP opposed the plan, claiming it was designed to oppress conservative forces and thus extend the "liberal reign." The LKP's fierce campaign against this had initial success when Justice Minister Cho Kuk, the purported architect of the reform plan, stepped down last month amid an escalating investigation into a corruption scandal involving him and his relatives.

During the town hall meeting, however, President Moon vowed to push ahead with the reform regardless of Cho's resignation. With the National Assembly set to vote on related fast-tracked bills in a few months, the political conflict is likely to intensify further.

Ideological polarization is more evident over Moon's handling of issues related to North Korea and the United States. Especially, the general perception among conservatives is that Moon is endangering national security by compromising the alliance with the U.S. Moon made it clear Tuesday that he won't reverse a decision not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, despite U.S. protests, blaming Japan for the soured bilateral ties.

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