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People's messages to Moon Jae-in

People from various parts of Korean society express their hopes for what the new administration will do

Yang Sung-hoon, 36, newlywed living in Incheon

“The new government should provide policies that provide much-needed assistance for newlyweds to find and fund housing.

“I think they can set aside some funds to provide long-term leases -- probably 5-10-year leases -- maybe with newlyweds being the first in line for those.

“I believe this will provide the much-needed breathing room for the potential newlyweds to spend on other essential things rather than spending everything on housing.”

Jeon Yong-ha, 27, job seeker in Seoul

“I hope the new administration builds a system that can help job seekers review what they lack when they fail to get employed.

“This way job seekers can prepare better for the next job interview. The government should also make companies return resumes or applications to the job applicants.

“This can help reduce the pressure on younger people seeking employment and also save time.”

Choi Hwee-young, 27, performance planning industry worker

“Many believe that those who work in art, sports and the performance industry make little money and live a life that is removed from reality.

“I hope our new leader can break the stereotype of those who work hard chasing their dreams -- help them to receive more respect and support.

“I do not wish to see another incident like the drawing up of a blacklist of cultural figures deemed critical of the government who were then denied state support.”

Kim Se-yule, 38, manager at Redcap Tour

“Dear President, I and my spouse don’t want our daughter -- Kim Ju-ah in her first year at an elementary school -- to spend too much time memorizing English words and wrestling with math questions when she goes to middle and high school.

“We believe few Koreans would deny that cramming for exams at school has hampered the development of creativity of students over the past few decades.

“So we hope you will be a leader who overhauls the educational system for the children’s better future and for improved national competitiveness. Congratulations on your inauguration!”

Eun Jong-hun, 28, assistant film director 

Freedom of expression, guarantee of diversity, the principle of “support without interference,” and a system where artists and creators can take control of culture-related policies -- these are the things I ask of the new administration with regard to the film industry.

In terms of society in general, I hope citizens will be able to receive care and the guarantee of basic happiness for no other reason than the fact that they are citizens; and that people will not be discriminated against due to gender, profession or income.

Dong Jong-in, 61, joint head of Korea Association of Energy, Climate Change and Environment

“Each candidate’s party had put out pledges regarding fine dust issues, and it’s a sign that they are being taken seriously. But the pledges lack details on finding the root cause of rising fine dust levels and how much it will cost to implement anti-pollution plans. 

“The new administration should start by creating a database that helps identify various sources of air pollution.

“It is important for the government to hold an open discussion with local environmental groups to gather expert opinions, come up with proper diagnosis and treatment plans and put them into actual policies that are effective and sustainable.”

Lee Seung-ha, 36, working mom with a 4-year-old child

“Dear President, I am a working mother living in the city and as much as I appreciate the government’s child care allowance, what I truly need is a reliable place that will take care of my daughter in times of need.

“Also, I strongly ask that the new government take the worsening fine dust situation seriously, as it will cause irrevocable damage to the health and development of our children.

“I sincerely hope that in years to come, I will be able to tell my daughter that our government exists to serve the people and to punish those who have committed wrongdoings -- a simple principle which our society has failed to uphold for too long.”

Kang Sung-woo, 32, Gwangjang Market street vendor

All I want is for the newly elected president to just allow us to run our business and for the president to do his job well. When presidents did not do their job properly, I saw my business in trouble and my livelihood at stake.

As a vendor, I have watched the number of Chinese customers decrease to nearly zero. But, I don’t have a say here, because I know that national security is a graver matter than a cup of juice.

I am rather concerned about my girlfriend who has not been able to find a stable job.

I don’t expect a president to cast a magic spell. But I hope the new president will be able to tackle unemployment and make things better for young people.

Rhyu Jung-bum, 35, Mesh Korea CEO 

“As a founder of a Korean startup, I would ask our new president to relax excessive regulations that limit business opportunities. It is necessary and important to have regulations in order to prevent foreseeable social problems. But often, we see that some regulations are too excessive, preventing startups from proceeding with their businesses smoothly. They are, rather, hurdles to us.

“The startup environment has seen significant improvements in terms of financial support for new firms. I hope the new government continues supporting startups by keeping policies that are consistent with those of the previous administration.”

Ahn Chan-il, director of the World North Korea Research Center, North Korean defector living in South Korea since 1979

“After a decade of engagement policy and another of a pressure campaign, South Korea is at a crossroads on its approach toward the North and unification. I hope the new government will find a third way, blending the Sunshine Policy and pressure, which could close the gap between the two Koreas, build trust and lay the groundwork for unification.

“The path to unification would open if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un abandons nuclear weapons and comes forward with a message of peace. But he is unlikely to do so unless the US signs a peace treaty and withdraws its troops from the peninsula.

“Seoul should explore various ways to foster the mood for rapprochement. As an option, I suggest the launch of new denuclearization talks that could entail a restart of the Kaesong industrial park and tours to Kumgangsan, but without providing bulk cash. I hope the new government will be remembered by history as one that paved the way for unification.”

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch

“South Korea’s new president should recognize that all Koreans, regardless of whether they are living north or south of the 38th parallel, deserve to have their human rights protected, their freedom assured and their dignity respected. The new leader should recognize that it’s time to end the polarization and politicization of human rights dialogue in South Korea between left and right, with each side asserting they are right and the other side is wrong.

“Yes, the UN Commission of Inquiry established beyond a doubt that the Pyongyang government has committed crimes against humanity against the people of North Korea, and we all need to work to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their crimes. But that certainly doesn’t mean that South Korea can ignore its own human rights problems that must be urgently addressed, like abuses of labor rights, discrimination against women at home and in the workplace, violence and abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful public assembly, and abusive treatment of migrant workers from other countries.

“Human Rights Watch expects that the new president will work equally hard on human rights issues in both the north and the south, recognizing that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states unequivocally that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ The time is opportune for South Korea to turn a new page, and become a global leader in the 21st century on human rights, whether at home or in North Korea, during bilateral foreign policy negotiations with other governments or at the UN in New York and Geneva.”

Oh Yun-mi, 33, a soon-to-be working mom who expects twin boys in August 

To fundamentally resolve the low birthrate issue, what we need is an environment in which stable child care is possible, not just one-off incentives for show. The new government will hopefully be capable of introducing a policy that does not require double-income parents to choose between their children and their careers.

Hong Min-ji, 35, a lecturer at the Chinaro Chinese language institution, from Seoul (left)

I hope the new government will implement a principled policy that promotes a balanced relationship between Korea and China. I am keen to see the issues regarding the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system resolved in an amicable and peaceful manner so that those who are engaged in China-related work can be at ease again.

As all Koreans wish, the new government should also heed the voices of the people, taking it as its innate duty.

Jin Minghua, 30, a lecturer at the Chinaro Chinese language institution, from Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China (right)

I hope the relationship between China and Korea will remain as cordial and peaceful as now, and the countries will prosper in tandem. Also I hope the new Korean government will improve labor rights and incentives for expats, while creating better jobs and working environments.

Ryu Wang-sik, 59, retiree

Ryu Wang-sik worked for one of the country’s largest family-run conglomerates for 32 years. 

“The new president should set out to reform the chaebol to rule out unjust misconduct and corporate crimes. They are privatizing companies even though they hold a very small stake. Their influence likens them to emperors. Decades of corruption must be stamped out. The nation’s companies, as well as the economy, remain vulnerable to ‘ownership crises' as long as corruption continues to exist,” Ryu said.

Ryu said the new president should tackle economic issues such as disparities between the rich and the poor, welfare and developing the nation’s overall competitiveness amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Chang Sung-ho, 28, investment banker at a Tokyo-based financial firm

As a Korean living in Japan, the most uncomfortable situations occur with regards to bilateral agreements about the past atrocities committed by Japan. I hope that the new president will address the issue more clearly and approve or disapprove of the agreements or comments that were made by past administrations. If an agreement was reached in the past that is deemed unfair by the public, please come to a new agreement and ask for an additional apology, or state that the agreement was unfair but that it was the best that could be achieved. Manage the issue domestically, rather than allow public emotions to run amok without an official government stance.

Lee Hyeon-song, 32, lawyer living in London 

I think there is widespread skepticism among young people toward South Korean society. We need to build a social climate where the effort you put in is compensated properly. Under such conditions, people can be creative and diverse in designing their own lives. One of the most impressive things I noticed while living in London is its culture in which people respect each other’s diversity. Despite Brexit, I think London is still a city where people of different colors and cultures can live harmonious lives. I hope the new government will be more proactive in reducing social bias and discrimination.

Park Se-jin, 29, Seoul-based artist 

“I want South Korean society to be fair and just and, above all, open to all those who pursue their dreams.

“I live with money earned by holding part-time jobs at bars and convenience stores. I manage to buy the material for my painting, but then I cannot rent a venue to show and sell my works. It is a vicious circle.

“Living as an artist and chasing my dream seems impossible without financial support from one’s parents.

“I hope the new government expands welfare for artists, especially fledgling ones.

“It would be good if the government could create a website, let artists register their works and give them little subsidies to financially support them. I think such a website could also be a way to promote Korean artists internationally.”

Udaya Rai, president of the Seoul-Gyeonggi-Incheon Migrants’ Trade Union

“Compared to 15 years ago, migrant workers’ lives are not at all better off. The Korean government thinks it should help us because we are from poor countries.

“We have not been allowed to take paid days off or change workplaces as we wish under the current Employment Permit System. We have been pressured to work longer hours than Korean peers, but earned less.

“Under the new government, I hope migrant workers’ basic labor rights can be guaranteed and we are embraced as members of society, as South Korea cannot function without us supporting the very bottom of its economy.”

So Sung-wook, 26, Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea activist 

“I hope South Korea becomes a society where someone like me, who is gay, can lead a safe and happy life. I want to reveal who I am and my sexual orientation without my existence being denied.

“I was outraged and sad when presidential candidates, except for one, said they opposed our existence. It is the new president’s job to fight discrimination against sexual minorities rather than wait for things to change.

“We hope the new government stops punishing soldiers just because they are gay. We want the new administration to pass an anti-discrimination law to make us safer. We want the nation’s education materials to mention our existence so that the young can think of who they are and their rights.”

Amanda Melgarejo Bastos, American, English teacher 

I hope the air quality in Korea improves and that the foreign community can have more confidence in Korean law enforcement.

I developed tonsillitis almost immediately after arriving in Korea and it has never gone away. I want to know where all the pollution is coming from because even if half of it is from the deserts in China, the other half coming from Korea needs to be investigated and cleared away.

Also, I hope the police take foreigners more seriously. In general, the police seem to favor only the Korean side of the story instead of equally hearing and understanding both sides.

Lee Jin-ock, Korea Womens’ Political Solidarity director

“Korean society has shifted responsibility for giving birth, raising children and maintaining careers to women, so women’s lives as mothers and workers have become more vulnerable.

“Policies themselves cannot solve the gender inequality problem. It is good to expand parental leave. But only regular workers are entitled to such paid parental leave. If not embraced by companies, women will continue to suffer from the burden of child-rearing alone.

 “I hope that the new government improves the structural inequality in society and the way it governs the country.  The government should serve as a mediator to include more voices of women, minorities and civil society in implementing its policies.”

Choi Jung-wha, president of Corea Image Communications Institute and professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

“Korea would benefit greatly from a president who prioritizes cultural communications with communities around the world. I want our new leader to raise our national prestige up a notch, so that citizens of the world feel compelled to do many interesting things with Korea.

“Our country also needs a leader who can demonstrate to our young people that everything is within our grasp given our creative exertion -- that the world is our oyster. Emmanuel Macron, the freshly elected soon-to-be president of France, when he came to Korea in late 2014 as an economic minister exemplified that spirit in a 40-minute off-the-cuff speech.

“Macron‘s message was that by promoting flexible work on Sundays, citizens can be both progressive and pragmatic at the same time. The strength of France, a global cultural powerhouse, comes from open communication between citizens and with the world at large.”

Park Sung-min, 31, Occupational and Environmental Health doctor at Inha University Hospital 

“As a whole, I want policies to head in a direction where it diminishes social discrimination. There are existing bills that ban discrimination against disabilities, but I’m not sure it’s well-abided,” said Park who was permanently paralyzed from the waist down from a skiing accident in college.

“There are companies that would rather pay fines than actually hire disabled employees. Even if they succeed in getting the job, most disabled persons soon resign due to lack of support and infrastructure.”

Park emphasized that reduced mobility and accessibility were the main reasons behind the low social participation of the disabled. He believes once the rights are secured, the participation rate will increase gradually.

Lim Won-sun, 54, head of Korean Academy of Multicultural Family

“The new administration should establish a new immigration services body that can comprehensively deal with issues related to multicultural families. Currently there are ministries and organizations proceeding with similar projects, which is very inefficient. In addition, the government bodies should be watched closely on their management because the services and monetary budgets offered are often not fully delivered.

“I wish the government would acknowledge that, while multicultural families need attention, they are also members of society, existing as another form in the diversifying family culture in Korea.

“Health support centers and multicultural family centers exist separately, but it would be better to have a family support center that can include multicultural families, instead of discriminating against them as if they were foreigners.”

Lee Min-young, 18, Silim High School

“I believe the key for good leadership is the ability to listen to the people. The former president lacked that skill and failed to care for the livelihoods of the citizens. I hope the new president is more considerate.

 “I get my voting right next year after I turn 19. I wish the new leader would lower the voting age. Eighteen-year-olds are old enough to think about policies and decide on the leader who will affect their lives for the next five years.

“My parents work and they could not take time off on holidays. It would be nice to increase the number of national holidays, but what is more important is that the employees be able to fully take off the existing holidays.”

Nu Chen (Yoo Sung-chan), 31, musician 

“I hope the new government can make more room for musicians who don’t come from major entertainment agencies, like me. I think the current music industry is too focused on K-pop. I know that the Korean entertainment industry has grown so much with K-pop content, but they are also leaving less room for other artists to develop. The Korean music industry would be more diversified if the future government could support musicians from various backgrounds to freely pursue their music careers.

“I also hope the new government will fix problems regarding illegal downloading and streaming that are rampant today. We are having a real hard time with such problems and they are very sensitive issues to musicians.”