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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 10)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:06 May 10, 2022

Learn from failures
: New president should restore democracy

President Moon Jae-in spent his last day at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday, serving out his single five-year term. His retirement meant an end to five years of liberal rule and the start of conservatives' return to power.

Now it is hard for the Moon administration to get high scores for what it has done. On the March 9 election, voters chose Yoon Suk-yeol, former prosecutor general, as the nation's new leader. This showed how much people were craving change for the better, expressing their disappointment with a set of Moon's policy failures.

Moon got off to a good start with overwhelming public support following the impeachment and ouster of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who was convicted of corruption and abuse of power. But he failed to meet the people's aspirations for fairness and justice. He reneged on his promise to create a fair and just society with equal opportunities.

In his farewell address, Moon expressed his hope that the new administration will inherit the accumulated outcome of the previous government and develop it further to maintain the success story of the country. He called on the nation to move toward national unity. He also appealed for the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and continued efforts for denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

President Moon's achievements and mistakes should be assessed in a fair and objective way. He deserves credit for making efforts to improve inter-Korean ties by holding three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and brokering denuclearization talks between Kim and then U.S. President Donald Trump. Regrettably, however, his peace initiative had failed to bear fruit, inviting criticism for allowing Pyongyang to buy time to complete its nuclear weapons development.

One of Moon's critical mistakes was his failure to bring soaring housing prices under control. He only proved that suppressing demand with heavier taxes and a tighter control on mortgages cannot fight property speculation effectively. His policies based on leftist ideology were out of touch with reality. A case in point was his "income-led growth policy" which led to a decrease in jobs and hurt smaller businesses. Another example was Moon's much-avowed nuclear phase-out policy which has dealt a serious blow to the country's atomic energy industry with power generation costs running high.

The Moon government has divided the nation sharply between progressives and conservatives, deepening social and political conflicts. It pitted its supporters against its opponents by appointing Moon's confidant Cho Kuk as justice minister amid the prosecution's investigation into corruption and fraud allegations surrounding his family. Moon's government and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) have been slammed for using double standards. They had resorted to divisive politics and unilateralism, instead of promoting bipartisanship, compromise and national harmony.

In a nutshell, the country has suffered setbacks in the rule of law and democracy under Moon's rule. His government and party had weakened the prosecution in the name of prosecutorial reform in order to prevent it from investigating corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. The DPK railroaded two controversial bills to deprive the prosecution of its investigative powers, and President Moon signed them into law with only six days before his retirement. All these represented a retreat from democracy and degeneration into outdated politics.

Now the Yoon government should learn from the policy failures of its predecessor. It needs to make a difference by sticking to the basic principles of democracy. Yoon should not repeat the same mistakes of Moon. He must keep his promise to end the country's "imperial" presidency and bring the people together for national unity. It is also imperative for him to forge cooperative ties with opposition parties. We hope Yoon will be a successful president.
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