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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 10)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:06 May 10, 2022

Toward unity and harmony

The Yoon Seok-yeol administration is in charge after the inauguration in the morning. After weathering all the calamities of the 1950-53 Korean War and a tumultuous journey to industrialization and democracy later, the country is to be led by a head of state without any experience in the legislature. Yoon's election as president will have far-reaching repercussions on the politics and future of this country.

But dire internal and external conditions await the fledgling administration, probably in a more serious way than in the Kim Dae-jung administration that had to wrestle with the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. With the triple whammies of high prices, the falling won and high interest rates directly hitting the economy, the ongoing U.S.-China conflict and the Federal Reserve's tightening further fuel our crisis. A perfect storm is coming after the Ukraine war interrupted global supply chains, drove up international energy prices and finally triggered a trade deficit in Korea.

The new government must gather all national capabilities to effectively address economic hardships first. Ramifications of the repeated real estate fiascos in the Moon Jae-in administration will soon become a time bomb, as suggested by soaring jeonse (long-term deposits) prices after the outgoing administration's relentless regulation-based approach backfired. The people who borrowed money at low interest rates to own a home desperately need help from the new government after the interest rates increased.

A Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) survey showed that a majority of local companies singled out a recovery of growth engines as the top priority of the new government. President Yoon must respect the vitality of the private sector and remove stifling regulations, as he promised in his campaign, and create quality jobs.

Improving livelihoods cannot be accomplished by the new government alone. Given the nearly two-thirds of seats the Democratic Party (DP) holds in the legislature, the People Power Party (PPP) cannot pass any bills without its cooperation. National unity can never be achieved if fierce confrontation persists between the two parties, as vividly seen in the DP's unilateral passage of bills aimed at depriving the prosecution of its investigative authority once and for all. Both parties will likely engage in a more heated battle ahead of the June 1 local elections and a few by-elections for vacant seats in the legislature.

Yoon as president must exert all effort to integrate the divided nation. He can find a clue from the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, who placed his opponents in major posts of his government and knocked on the door of opposition lawmakers in the middle of the night to pass a Constitutional amendment. Yoon can also learn from former presidents Roh Tae-woo and Kim Dae-jung, who skillfully crossed the ideological divide when the need arose.

Yoon has started his presidency by getting a briefing from the Joint Chiefs of Staff about North Korea's latest launch of ballistic missiles in an underground bunker at the new presidential office in Yongsan. Considering the possibility of another test timed with his summit with U.S. President Joe Biden later this month, Yoon must consolidate the alliance further. He must not repeat his predecessor's mistakes of throwing the public into despair by only siding with his supporters if he wants to be remembered as a successful president.
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