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[Editorial] Distorted self-praise

Cheong Wa Dae brags justice, peace, economy; Questionable if it sees reality normally

Cheong Wa Dae admired itself looking back at the first half of President Moon Jae-in’s term, but its self-praise does not reflect what is actually happening. It is questionable if it has a normal grasp of reality.

“The government began with rebuilding the collapsed nation and normalized it,” Moon told his aides and senior secretaries on Monday, referring to the past 2 1/2 years. “Now the government is diffusing the values of fairness and justice throughout our society.”

He also said that his administration has brought about “miraculous change in the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon’s chief of staff, chief of the National Security Office and chief policy secretary praised achievements by his administration in their joint news conference Sunday.

“The past 2 1/2 years were a period when the government system was returning to normal,” Chief of Staff Noh Young-min said.

“The administration created the impetus for the dismantlement of the Cold War structure and the establishment of a peace system on the Korean Peninsula,” Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong said.

“If we go back to the old (growth) model just because our economy is in trouble right now, it will invite failure,” Chief Policy Secretary Kim Sang-jo said.

Moon appointed a hypocritical figure as Justice Minister, enraging people and sending hundreds of thousands into the streets to condemn the appointment. People lament that fairness and justice have crumbled, but Moon says justice is spreading.

On the day of his meeting with aides and secretaries, the prosecution indicted Chung Kyung-sim, wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who was also Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs. Her 14 charges include document forgery, illegal stock trading, and destruction of evidence. Cho is also strongly suspected of involvement.

However, Moon has turned a blind eye to allegations against Cho and his family, and brags about the justice and fairness of his government. Few are likely to be convinced by Moon’s assertion.

The government system has not been returning to normal for the past 2 1/2 years as his chief of staff said. It has become abnormal with power concentrated excessively in the presidential office. All roads have been made to lead to Cheong Wa Dae.

Senior posts of the government and public institutions were filled with pro-Moon figures, irrespective of competence. Judges biased toward the current regime have taken key positions. Moon and his secretaries are still sympathetic toward Cho, who is viewed by the public as the epitome of unfairness and hypocrisy.

Moon had summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and played a role in brokering US-North Korea summits as well, but what he vaunts “miraculous change” did not happen. His conciliatory attitude emboldened Pyongyang to test new weapons freely and even to insult Moon. Nevertheless, the chief of the National Security Office says they are not threatening. People cannot but feel uneasy.

The current economic difficulties were not caused by the old growth model, but largely by the misguided policy to propel growth by increasing incomes. The national economy has been seriously undermined by the unprecedented “income-led growth” policy. Jobs vanished rapidly and income disparity widened. Pro-labor policies and tight regulations discouraged business activities. A nuclear phase-out policy withered the Korean reactor industry envied by other countries.

What the Moon administration did to revive the reeling economy was spend taxpayers’ money. It tried to fix side effects of minimum wage hikes and shorter working hours using taxes. It spent public money on creating short-term jobs to buttress employment statistics.

His spokesperson tried to fan Cheong Wa Dae’s shameless self-praise with a twisted analogy.

“If crops are only stockpiled in a shed and not used, they are doomed to rot,” she said Monday. “The reason why fiscal money is stocked up in state coffers is to use it in difficult times.”

Of course, fiscal spending is needed to some extent as pump priming. But the Moon government splurged taxpayers’ money with little effect in boosting the economy. The government’s “shed” is empty, and it is stockpiling debt. The government’s budget deficit snowballed to 57 trillion won in the January-September period. The figure is the highest since 2011. Tax revenue is decreasing but the government’s budget has grown super large. Taxpayers’ money would not be doomed to rot even if it were stockpiled. Such a view is an expression of ignorance or an illusion caused by fiscal spending addiction.

It is doubtful if Cheong Wa Dae sees reality as it is and perceives that crisis is looming large.

The ruling party said the Moon regime has brought about changes which were unimaginable a few years ago. Indeed, nobody imagined such changes. If similar changes continue for another 2 1/2 years, the damage may be irreparable.