President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he has tried to right wrongs and re-establish the roles of government.
“I have tried to carry out the reforms the people demand. They are my biggest power in running state affairs,” he said at a news conference marking his 100 days in office.
Moon emphasized, as he had done in his inaugural address, that he would be a president for all Koreans.
But actually, he has clung to those who attended the candlelight rallies that led to the snap election he won.
The key to becoming a president for all is dialogue and cooperation with opposition parties and critics, but this has been mostly ignored.
Asked about qualification controversies over the figures he appointed to senior posts, he said that his personnel management was the best balanced and the most equitable compared with past governments.
But his nominations seem to be far from equitable, given stiff opposition to most nominees during their confirmation hearings.
Moon has driven reforms hard, riding his high approval ratings in his early days in office.
On the other hand, his drive to eliminate past evils is arousing doubt that the current regime targets the past conservative regimes.
His election pledge to integrate the nation seems to have disappeared.
It is questionable whether public debates to be led by non-expert and legally irresponsible civilians on divisive and important policies can be called reform.
Moon said at the news conference that taxes on those who are not rich would not be raised, welfare would be increased, real estate speculation would be rooted out and war would be prevented on the Korean Peninsula.
A rosy, though sketchy, blueprint has been drawn, but the devil is in the details. Moon did not present concrete and convincing plans on how to carry out his plans.
Considering the crisis in security and difficulties for the economy, there is no wonder that security and the economy dominated the news conference.
Moon’s big picture in the areas leaves little to be desired from a idealist’s viewpoint, but it is lacking in a sense of reality.
A naive view on North Korea and an equivocal attitude toward the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system have strained South Korea’s relations with the US and China alike.
The Moon administration first postponed the THAAD deployment and is now pushing for a “temporary” deployment.
Asked how to persuade an unresponsive North Korea, Moon said, “Inter-Korean dialogue must be resumed,” without elaborating on his answer.
He clarified his “red line” statement, saying it means a point in time when the North perfects an intercontinental ballistic missile and mounts a nuclear warhead on it.
He might as well remain equivocal about the red line strategically.
However, he did not mention what he would do when Pyongyang crosses the line. Will he cry out just for a peaceful resolution and war prevention?
When it comes to economy and people’s livelihoods, he was as generous as Santa Claus.
He boasted of policies to expand national health insurance coverage, raise basic pension payments and pay an allowance to every kid, as well as the recent hike in minimum wage.
No one would oppose welfare expansion, but the problem is how to finance it.
The Moon administration relies on expenditure restructuring and taxes on the rich, but many experts are concerned about snowballing fiscal deficits.
More worrisome is the burden will not end with this government. The next governments and future generations are likely to shoulder the burden.
Welfare is needed, but its rapid expansion is prone to be populism.
Rushing reforms when a leader is popular is important, but an excessive acceleration will leave side effects.
Moon must pay attention to his critics as well as his supporters and be willing to change course depending on the situation. All his election promises need be adjusted to changing realities.
The transition period for the Moon administration is over.
The time to blame current problems on past regimes has passed. Now is time for action and results.