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[Newsmaker] Moon seizes limelight

By Korea Herald

Published : March 18, 2015 - 19:50

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In a much anticipated face-to-face meeting with President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday, Moon Jae-in of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy wasted no time blasting her “botched” economic policies.

It was two years after Moon took a back seat in his party after he was defeated in the presidential election in 2012.

Moon told Park that her entire economic policies had left the economy in great danger and failed to improve the quality of people’s lives, which were her major campaign pledges. 

Moon Jae-in (center) pays his respects at the grave of former President Roh Moo-hyun in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap) Moon Jae-in (center) pays his respects at the grave of former President Roh Moo-hyun in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Park’s apparent discomfort failed to stop Moon, as he continued on using words such as “failure,” “all-around crisis” and “broken campaign pledges.”

Moon, who had been buttressing his political platform with the focus on the economy and welfare since he won the chairmanship of the party last month, appeared confident and ready to steal Park’s spotlight.

Moon continued his offense the next day, slamming the president that she had no critical views over contentious economic issues nor any measures prepared to resolve the problems.

“I realized that (she and I) still had different standpoints over ways of assessing the reality of the economy and resolving the problem,” he said during a supreme council meeting.

“The government appears to have no countermeasures to resolve problems with corporate tax, rising short- and long-term rent prices and households’ debts.”

The opposition leader also stressed that he would meet Park on a regular basis, indicating he will continue to flex his new political muscle. “We must not expect too much at the first attempt. We have to work together and meet frequently to give hope to the people,” he said.

Encouraged by the boosted mood, Moon made high-profile appearances on Wednesday, starting off with a visit to the graveyard of late former President Roh Moo-hyun, whom he had worked for in Cheong Wa Dae as the Chief Secretary.

“I will resurrect your spirits through history,” Moon wrote in the guestbook at Bonghwa village near Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.

This was followed by an intense debate session with the conservative governor of the region Hong Joon-pyo, who recently stirred controversy on free school meals.

Hong, the former chairman of the ruling party, scrapped the free meal program and said he would selectively provide free meals to low-income families. The NPAD has been opposing his decision that it would leave students from low-income families feeling embarrassed.

Moon held the governor responsible that he unilaterally suspended the nationwide program in the province based only on his “false conviction.”

“Providing meals to all children is part of compulsory education,” said Moon during a meeting with Hong in his office. “Children in South Gyeongsang Province should not be discriminated over school meals due to political calculation,” he said.

Critics said that intensifying his image by confronting the president and engaging verbal battle with the conservatives would help Moon unify the opposition that has been suffering from an escalating interparty feud.

But, on the other hand, he should step cautiously as his bold moves may fail to secure more votes from the centrist forces, a crucial task if he wants to win the next presidential election, said professor Yoon Sung-yi of Kyung Hee University.

The upcoming April 29 by-election is expected to be a test for him, as it was viewed as a barometer of public sentiments one year ahead of the general election next year.

Critics say that Moon should not just confront Park but also cooperate with her from time-to-time for the greater good. He must display a balanced leadership in order to expand the range of his supporters from not only centrists, but also from the conservative bloc, Yoon said.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)