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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 11)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:12 May 11, 2022

Not as many promises, light on detail

In his inaugural speech Tuesday at the National Assembly, President Yoon Suk-yeol did not make as many promises as his predecessors did. Instead, he suggested where the country should be headed from. Yoon wants to build a country whose "owner is the people" and which is "respected for taking its due responsibility as a member of international society." The new president added that he will walk the same path as the rest of the people.

Yoon's political language was refreshing. He used the word "freedom" as many as 35 times along with "free citizens" and "global citizens." His speech contained what he had said when he entered politics 10 months ago. "Democracy without freedom is not democracy," said the prosecutor-turned-president at the time.

The president said the pandemic, massive layoffs, ultralow growth, polarization and social conflict led to a crisis of democracy — more specifically, anti-intellectualism prevailing in our society. Distortion of truth based on excessive groupthink and selective justice jeopardizes our democracy, he pronounced.

Given the immense ramifications of such a bias, his perception could be right. Yoon stopped short of talking about his presidential duty to help broaden the base for social consensus. In fact, he did not mention "unity" at all despite his election victory by only 0.73 percentage points and despite the urgent need to get support from the Democratic Party, which holds 168 seats in the 300-member legislature.

The new president's argument for freedom was quite impressive. When all members of our society become free citizens, we can achieve economic prosperity and affluence, he claimed. Yoon went on to argue that all members of society must get a fair access to basic economic resources, education and culture — instead of being chained to the winner-take-all system — and abide by fair rules at the same time. His remarks translate into a progressive interpretation of freedom. Yoon also underscored the importance of science, technology and innovation in achieving rapid growth again, but unfortunately he skipped any details on how.

We welcome the conservative president's intention to open the door to dialogue with North Korea while insisting on a sustainable peace rather than a vulnerable peace. Yoon also promised to prepare a bold initiative to noticeably improve the lives of North Koreans through cooperation with the international community if the North stops nuclear development programs once and for all. That reminds us of the rosy initiatives hammered out by former president Lee Myung-bak during his campaign. We hope Yoon does not repeat his failures.
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