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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Aug. 18)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:57 August 18, 2022

Press conference without substance

During a press conference marking his 100th day in office on Wednesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol said he will respect people's expectations above all. "The most important thing in governance is what the people expect from a head of state," he stressed. The president went on to explain his national agenda items, such as plans to end the income-led growth and nuclear phase-out policies pushed by the Moon Jae-in administration, as well as deregulation and strategies to stabilize housing prices and advance our semiconductor industry further.

It is appropriate for the president to pledge to canvass public sentiment when his approval rating plunged to the 20 percent range less than 100 days after being elected president. But his diagnosis of the crisis fell short of our expectations. When asked about his plan to revamp the presidential office and officialdom, the president said he will not do it for political purposes. Negative public opinion about his governance primarily originated with his repeated appointment fiascos. Yoon recruited unqualified people for major posts in his administration and hired too many prosecutors for major positions. The president also did not apologize over the suspicion that he allowed an interior design company with connections to his wife to participate in the construction of his official residence near the presidential office in Yongsan.

Yoon said the presidential office will look into what went wrong in organizing national tasks and communicating with the public over various issues. Given the education minister's botched attempt to lower the school starting age to five from the current six, Yoon needs to have close consultations with the governing party. But he did not respond to the growing demand for the stepping down of lawmakers close to him from the frontline despite their responsibility for the division of the party. Yoon also said he did not have time to pay attention to remarks by other politicians, including former party chair Lee Jun-seok. As his press conference mostly focused on highlighting his accomplishments as president, we wonder if he really could weather crisis without a colossal revamp of the party, government and presidential office.

But we welcome Yoon's promise to press ahead with labor reform and pension reform without political considerations. His emphasis on dealing with labor-management conflicts based on law and principle also needs a compliment. Yoon's promise to ease North Korea's security concerns and help normalize U.S.-North relations through diplomatic channels also deserves a notice. He also said his government will find ways to compensate wartime forced laborers with no diplomatic clash with Japan.

Yoon said he will carry on his doorstep interviews. If he looks arrogant, the public will turn against him.
(END)

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