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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 11)

All News 07:11 May 11, 2022

Rebuilding our nation
: New President advocates liberal democracy

President Yoon Suk-yeol has promised to rebuild South Korea into a country that fulfills its responsibility as a trusted member of the international community and truly belongs to the people. During his inauguration ceremony in front of the National Assembly on Tuesday, the new President stressed the importance of universal values such as freedom, human rights, fairness and solidarity.

Yoon vowed to advocate liberal democratic values and a market economy. He said it is important to share the common value of freedom in order to resolve a crisis and difficulties at home and abroad. And he called for defending political and economic freedoms to ensure prosperity and affluence.

His inauguration marked the start of his conservative government after the former prosecutor general won the presidential election on the ticket of the People Power Party (PPP) on March 9. As he pledged during the campaign, he should restore fairness and common sense which had been undermined by the previous liberal government of Moon Jae-in.

Yet it is far from easy to rebuild the nation, given mounting domestic and global challenges. South Korea has yet to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic although it lifted almost all social distancing rules except the mask mandate. It is also faced with an economic slowdown amid soaring inflation, interest rate hikes and the rapid depreciation of the Korean won against the U.S. dollar.

Other risk factors include the war between Russia and Ukraine, subsequent higher prices in energy and food, the escalating U.S.-China rivalry, supply chain realignments, and climate change. North Korea's repeated launches of ICBMs and other ballistic missiles are also posing a serious security threat not only to South Koreas but also the world. Its leader Kim Jong-un has even threatened to use nuclear weapons, while preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test.

Against this backdrop, the new Yoon government should double down on tackling such issues in cooperation with other states and turning Korea into a strong nation with international prestige. In this context, we positively assess Yoon's presentation of a new vision for the future of our nation. The new President needs to work out detailed action plans to translate such a vision into action.

First of all, he must make strenuous efforts to ensure the stable management of state affairs after moving the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae to the defense ministry building in Yongsan, central Seoul. He should prove his true intention of the relocation by ending the country's "imperial" presidency and becoming a democratic president in a true sense.

It is also urgent to get approval for his Prime Minister-nominee Han Duck-soo and other Cabinet appointees from the 300-member National Assembly controlled by the opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) which holds 168 seats. The Yoon administration and the ruling PPP should try hard to work together with the DPK in ending tense political confrontations and moving toward bipartisanship.

Most of all, Yoon needs to keep his campaign promise to bring all of the people together for national unity and form cooperative ties with the opposition. Then he must focus on improving the people's livelihood by achieving a rapid economic recovery and creating more jobs. Toward that end, his government should push for deregulation, encourage innovation and promote entrepreneurship to create a business-friendly environment and boost corporate investments.

On the diplomatic front, Yoon should strengthen the Seoul-Washington alliance to better cope with North Korea's growing military threats and achieve complete denuclearization. He needs to map out measures to step up cooperation with America when he holds a summit with visiting U.S. President Joe Biden on May 21. It is also necessary for him to forge a new strategic partnership with China and mend ties with Japan to ensure peace and stability on the peninsula and co-prosperity in the region.
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