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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 23)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:07 November 23, 2021

A strange town hall meeting

President Moon Jae-in had a 100-minute dialogue with people in a live-broadcast by KBS Sunday evening. It was arranged in a town hall-style meeting attended by 300 civilian panelists. The Blue House promised it to be an "unscripted communicative forum." But the stage was mostly spent on the president saying what he wanted to say, without addressing the issues that pain the people.

The 300 participants the Blue House claimed to have selected randomly without bias asked unsubstantial questions — for instance, asking the president to explain what he was proud of and regretted about during his term — or just paid him compliments.

Moon went on with a lengthy listing of his achievements, which at one point he admitted to be overly "self-congratulating." Instead of touching on the failures in real estate and unemployment policies, he touted how national dignity has escalated through the country's successful virus mitigation endeavors. Even as daily infections hover at 3,000, the president claimed that the "vaccination rate is the world's highest'" and that the country has become No. 10 in economic, democratic and diplomatic achievements. While addressing the issue of delay in vaccines, he ended his comment on a self-indulgent note, pointing out just three countries have a similar vaccination rate.

The president's insensitivity toward the pain of the people was another slight. When asked about youth unemployment, Moon said that employment rate of the young people has improved 99.9 percent, ending with a theoretical comment that he would endeavor to create more quality jobs. He also claimed the real estate market was stabilizing and vowed to solve the problem so that it is not passed onto the next government. His response could not be satisfactory with the people dejected by the housing price surge and stripped of any hope to one day own a home.

The TV show was held 109 days ahead of the presidential election on March 9. The Blue House assured that the president would not make any comments favorable to the ruling party. But since Moon devoted most of his time to celebrating the achievements of the government, the question of neutrality could be raised.

In his last comment, Moon told the people to have the pride as the world's top 10 nation. But people cannot be compelled to feel pride. It can be shared and felt when people can freely question the president and receive honest and sincere answers.
(END)

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