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[Editorial] Stern judgment

Moon regime must take by-election results seriously or it may face bigger fury next year

The April 7 by-elections, regarded as a barometer for the presidential election about a year later, ended with a landslide win by an opposition party. Candidates of the conservative People Power Party won the posts of Seoul and Busan mayors at the same time.

Choices facing voters focused on the judgment of the current regime, and they gave the ruling party a crushing defeat.

The by-elections were similar to the April 15 general elections a year ago in view of issues and political situations. Last year, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea won by a landslide. The then-popular sentiment has changed remarkably in a year.

The ruling party enjoyed some vote-getting effect from its promise to give voters COVID-19 relief checks after the general elections. Many people supported the party to help the nation overcome the novel coronavirus, though they were dissatisfied with the Moon regime’s misrule. This year it got ready the fourth and largest-ever relief amounting to more than 20 trillion won ($17.8 billion). But it did not work anymore. Rather, people doubted the government’s ability to contain the infectious disease.

The Democratic Party won four consecutive national elections over the past five years since 2016. They packaged themselves as a champion of fairness and justice, and vowed to eliminate evils. They employed a strategy of dividing people between “us” and “them,” and framed “us” as justice and “them” as evils.

They became haughtier after winning an overwhelming majority in the general elections last year. It legislated as it liked, knocking down the rule of law and imperiling democracy.

The by-elections were called because of sexual harassments by mayors affiliated with the ruling party. The party revised its constitution that banned it from fielding its candidates for those offices vacated by its members due to their sexual scandals. People became indignant not only at the abominable allegations but also at the shamelessness of the party that flipped on its promises.

The ruling party, together with the Moon administration, paid little attention to criticisms on its unreasonable moves solely to win the by-elections. To win over Busan voters, it vowed to build a new airport on Gadeokdo, though it had been already evaluated as uneconomical, then pushed through a special law just in three months.

The Moon presidency, now in its fourth year, has been hit by a big storm of real estate speculation.

The issue first loomed large from employees of Korea Land & Housing Corp. then expanded to a wide array of civil servants. Recently, Kim Sang-jo, Moon’s former chief policy adviser, was found to have raised the jeonse (lease) deposit on his house sharply two days before deposit hikes were restricted. Such hypocritical deeds never ceased throughout the current administration.

The vote is over, but housing troubles for ordinary people are not. The Moon administration vowed to curb housing prices and came up with real estate measures on 25 occasions. But housing prices skyrocketed. It put top priority on jobs, but jobs rapidly disappeared. It emphasized the mitigation of polarization, but income disparity widened. And yet it obstinately stayed the course, saying there will be no changes in its policies.

Its policy to phase out nuclear energy was determined dogmatically by Moon. Its government manipulated the outcome of a feasibility study on a revamped nuclear power plant to shut it down. Korea’s world-leading atomic energy industry is at the risk of collapse. It showed a submissive attitude to North Korea and tried to cater to China, while shaking South Korea’s security relations with the US and Japan. Cheong Wa Dae and the police intervened in the Ulsan mayoral election to get an old friend of Moon’s elected. The trial on the case has been pending for more than a year. The current regime disbanded prosecution teams that investigated allegations involving those close to Moon.

Voters were infuriated at the Moon regime’s dogma, double standards, incompetence and divisive politics. Their fury exploded in the by-elections. Unless it takes people’s judgments seriously, a bigger wave of fury may strike it next year.