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President Moon Jae-in interview with JTBC elicits diverse reactions

President Moon Jae-in (left) speaks with JTBC journalist Sohn Suk-hee in an interview held at Chim Ryu Gak, a wooden pavilion at Cheong Wa Dae. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in (left) speaks with JTBC journalist Sohn Suk-hee in an interview held at Chim Ryu Gak, a wooden pavilion at Cheong Wa Dae. (Cheong Wa Dae)

The last part of cable channel JTBC’s two-part special “Five Years of Moon Jae-in” aired Tuesday, reflecting on the Moon presidency’s five years.

Hosted by veteran JTBC journalist Sohn Suk-hee, the one-on-one interview reviewed Moon’s achievements and regrets, ranging from his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to international relations.

On Monday’s first episode, Moon talked about real estate prices and his administration’s efforts to tame South Korea’s housing market.

When asked about whether his popular slogan “Equal Opportunity, Fair Process, Just Result” was properly carried out during his presidency, Moon said he believed that the assessment will be made by the nation’s people and history.

“Different opinions will be shared by the people, but there are certain indicators to estimate the government’s success. The 2021 democracy index of South Korea, for instance, recorded the highest number among any other administrations in the past,” Moon said.

“When evaluating objective indicators, including the Gini coefficient and more, I am certain that progress has been made,” Moon added. The Gini coefficient is part of the Gini index, which measures income inequality.
President Moon Jae-in (left) speaks with JTBC journalist Sohn Suk-hee in an interview held at Sang Chun Jae, a wooden pavilion used to host VIP guests at Cheong Wa Dae. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in (left) speaks with JTBC journalist Sohn Suk-hee in an interview held at Sang Chun Jae, a wooden pavilion used to host VIP guests at Cheong Wa Dae. (Cheong Wa Dae)

Moon responded to some of the questions -- including ones on prosecution reform, change in the prosecution's investigative powers and COVID-19 related policies -- with silence, rhetorical questions and dodging.

The following night’s episode focused on Moon and his administration’s role in foreign policies and international relations, including policies concerning the US, China, Japan and North Korea.

The interview was held in Sang Chun Jae, a wooden pavilion used to host VIP guests at Cheong Wa Dae.

Moon shared stories about the historical meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US President Donald Trump as he looked back on the past five years.

As Moon and Sohn moved to Chim Ryu Gak, another wooden pavilion in the presidential compound, Moon talked about how he plans to spend his life after the end of his term.

On a YTN radio program on Wednesday, Tak Hyun-min, the protocol secretary to the president, said that Moon seemed satisfied with sharing his thoughts on various issues, and that he wished to talk about them for a long time.

“The interview was conducted at the highest level, showing mutual respect and their respective beliefs,” Tak added.

Meanwhile, a former conservative politician called Jeon Yeo-ok criticized Moon in a recent Facebook post. In her post, she called Moon someone who does not feel any responsibility for his failed policies. It was a noisy farewell to Moon’s five-year presidency, she continued.

Though viewers expressed their gratitude to Moon via comments on the program's official website and JTBC’s YouTube channel, others wrote that it was difficult to empathize with Moon’s answers.

“Five Years of Moon Jae-in” recorded 4.53 and 4.42 percent viewership ratings for its Monday and Tuesday episodes, respectively, according to Nielsen Korea.

The 160-minute program is available on the local streaming platform Tving.

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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