Moon Jae-in (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Following are excerpts from The Korea Herald’s interview Monday with Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea. -- Ed.
Q: You and the Democratic Party of Korea have been labeled as leftist, progressive or pan-progressive. How do you define your ideologies?
A: I think the labels are meaningless. At a time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what use are such labels? The tasks that face us are not about political cant. Were the candlelight protests divided between conservatives and progressives? Ending corruption is a task that goes beyond such things, they have no meaning.
Q: There are historically defined concepts about progressivism and conservativism, and they have provided pivots in Korean history.
A: Well, the Liberty Korea Party people call even Rep. Yoo Seong-min a leftist. By traditional standards, social democracy, or more, is considered progressive. In Korean politics, perhaps the Justice Party is the only one to have moved that far. The rest were (labeled) leftist by former ruling forces like the Saenuri Party (the immediate precursor to the Liberty Korea Party) that showed extreme right-wing tendencies.
Q: Do you think that you and Ahn Cheol-soo, the candidate of the People‘s Party, have fundamental differences in political values and philosophies?
A: First, in the past Ahn wanted new politics, and I thought that we were working together for a regime change even if (Ahn) had a new position. But it is becoming clear that was wrong. The most important thing is the demand of the times, and I have always been with the candlelight protests. In contrast, Ahn emphasizes that he did not participate. (Ahn and I) have fundamentally different perceptions of the times.
Q: You have stressed the role of the state, and a big government in economic issues, but Ahn highlights the private sector’s role. Do you agree?
A: Fundamentally, it is right to say that jobs should be created by private sector companies. But, aren’t Korean companies’ job creating capacities at their limit?
(The state) has long tried to stimulate job creation by cutting corporate taxes, and investing, but that has failed. (Past policies) have failed tens of times, and that has led to a national crisis. Saying that job creation must be done by the private sector at this juncture means to continue as before.
This is irresponsible and without alternatives. In short, it is talking about the economy without knowing about state affairs. The private sector should (create jobs), (the government) will support the Fourth Industrial Revolution, support ventures. However, it is unclear when such efforts will lead to job creation. That is why the public sector must take the lead. I want to make this clear.
Q: About your policies ...
A: Employment is the most important element in my pledges. Employment is the core, and the root of all problems. Slower growth is about jobs, economic polarization is about jobs. Low birthrate, aging population is about jobs. Young people can’t marry and have children, the reason they (refer to Korea as) ‘Hell Joseon,’ this is all about jobs. From this point of view, special measures must be taken. (Job creation) is the area where tax expenditures must be prioritized.
Q: Do you consider North Korea’s Kim Jong-un a rational counterpart, and how will you deal with Kim and United States President Donald Trump?
A: North Korea is an abnormal country. And of course Kim Jong-un is the same. (North Korea) shows idol worship, which is incomprehensible from the standards of a liberal democracy.
However, we must recognize (Kim) as North Korea’s leader, and if we are to resolve the nuclear issue we must negotiate (with Kim). To do this, we need military dominance.
As for President Trump, I don’t consider him in the same category with North’s Kim. I think he is someone who derives a rational decision from his calculations. So, I think communicating with President Trump will be easier. This is because Korea and the US have shared interests. The Korea-US alliance is important to the US just as it is to us. The alliance is important to the US in relation to (the US’) global strategies. For us, the North Korean nuclear issue is one of survival, and the US must resolve the issue, too. We have a long-standing alliance, and the Korea-US free trade agreement has made us economic allies, so the issue with Trump is easier.
Q: Issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula are being discussed solely between the US and China. What can you do to change that?
A: The issue of the Korean Peninsula is our problem, and we are directly involved in the North Korean nuclear issue. I feel that we should take the lead. At present, we are spectators who hope for the US-China talks to go well.
It is very regrettable that no agreement was reached on resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue. However, the two countries agreed on the need to work for a peaceful resolution to the issue. I expect more efforts to come.
Q: What will be your first move to shut down the North’s nuclear ambitions?
A: First, close cooperation with the US must be established, so that if (South Korea’s) North Korean policies need to be changed, we can request the US alter theirs.
The Trump administration considers the Obama administration and earlier Republican administrations to have failed in this regard, so Trump himself has hinted at changes in the US’ North Korean policies.
Q: Please explain your positions on the US-led anti-missile system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, and Korea’s deal with Japan on the wartime sexual slavery of Korean women issue.
A: The issue of THAAD must be resolved first if (I) take power.
I will approach security, economic and other issues under the three principles of putting the national interest first, upholding the Korea-US alliance and national consensus. I will concentrate on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, which is the root of matters surrounding THAAD.
The issue of ‘comfort women,’ both the agreement and the negotiation process were wrong. It must be renegotiated, as is the will of the majority of the public.
Q: What are your views on reports concerning strategic nuclear weapons?
A: Deploying strategic nuclear weapons (in South Korea) goes against the principle of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The most important basis for demanding North Korea abolish its nuclear programs is the fact that the principle of denuclearization of the peninsula was agreed to long ago. But if we (deploy) strategic nuclear weapons, we are deconstructing our most important justification for demanding (North Korea) to denuclearize.
Q: Should South Korea refuse even if the US pushes for deploying strategic nuclear weapons?
A: The US has maintained that it would be inappropriate.
Q: In your party’s primaries, you said that any alliance would be limited to being with the People’s Party and the Justice Party. There has since been much conflict between the Democratic Party and the People’s Party. Are you still open to an alliance with the People’s Party?
A: Our party and the People’s Party share the same roots. The People’s Party came about due to differences regarding measures for reforming the party, it is (People’s Party members’) alternative answer to doubts they had about whether the Democratic Party could achieve an administration change.
If our party wins the presidential election, then there will no longer be a reason for (the two parties) to remain separate.
However, the People’s Party will be judged by the people if it continues to disregard the people, and keeps showing interest in the corrupt powers’ attempt to extend their administration.
Q. The Homan region (South Jeolla Province and North Jeolla Province) is strategically important in this election, and competition with Ahn is unavoidable. What are your views on the region’s public opinion now and in the future?
A. Honam’s choice is to bring about a change of power. Their demand is to remove and pass judgment on those behind former President Park Geun-hye’s scandal and those who seek to continue their regime.
If Ahn allies with those who seek the continuation of the regime, Honam will never forgive that.
Q: Former President Park has been arrested, and some now say that the focus should move to more future-oriented issues.
A: Removing the accumulated evils (of Korean society) is the demand of our time.
The only thing that has changed is that former President Park has been impeached and arrested. It is only the beginning for (creating) a just and fair Korea.
Q: Polls show that Ahn has the advantage among voters in their 50s and 60s, and in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, which overlaps with the ousted former president’s support base in the last presidential election.
A: This is the result of Ahn working with the corrupt forces that hold power.
I am in my 60s, and from the Yeongnam area (North Gyeongsang Province and South Gyeongsang Province). However, I have the most stable supporter base across the age groups and regions.
This is because of the faith they have in me as the right person for removing corruption and privileges (of the few) and creating a just Korea.
I will become the first president who overcomes the divide of regional and generational divides.
Q: Who is your economic role model?
A: My economic role models are the policies created under 32nd President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt. I believe the days of his presidency, in which economic imbalance triggered the Great Depression, are very similar to what we face now.
Roosevelt emphasized equal distribution and promoted the New Deal, which made society more equal. He struggled to achieve unification of the nation, which brought change and reform.
Some of the economic problems that South Korea currently faces are widening income bipolarization, decline in population and weakening growth. To solve this, it is necessary to strengthen domestic consumption, create jobs and guarantee earnings. I will make efforts to establish a system where economic growth is driven by income, jobs, renovation and shared growth, much like a four-wheeled vehicle.
Q: Do you believe there should be a change in the current presidential system?
A: Instead of adopting an unqualified system, I believe it’s proper to maintain the current system, but with a two-term, four-year presidency.
I would also like to elaborate on the semi-presidential system since it could either mean a Cabinet constituted of the parliament and the prime minister or the parliamentary cabinet system, where the president’s role is only symbolic, like Austria. In some ways, the current system can also be labeled as semi-presidential since it take measures such as division of power, empowering the prime minister and decentralization of power.
I’d like to pursue decentralization of power through distribution of authority to local governments and Cabinet members.
Q. What were the biggest achievements and regrets you felt working with the late President Roh Moo-hyun?
A. I plan to launch new policies focusing on conglomerate reforms, social and economic bipolarization, and non-regular workers. I will continue pushing policies that highlighted Roh’s administration.
I will also make efforts to make Cheong Wa Dae more transparent by developing policies such as the release of the president’s schedule and hirings.
I will pursue political reform that enhances transparency of political funds along with decentralization of power and a balanced national development
(Translated by staff reporters Choi He-suk and Jung Min-kyung)