SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Korea Bizwire) – Before an assembly of 250 domestic and foreign media personnel, President Moon Jae-in expounded upon his vision for South Korea’s 2018 on January 10.
Moon’s New Year’s address was both populist and pacifist; the president emphasized improving the quality of life for the average citizen and reaffirmed his dedication to peace on the peninsula and the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program.
“In 2018, the goal of the government and I is to preserve the everyday lives of citizens and to better them. With the people’s desires and requests as our compass, we shall bring about change the South Korean people can tangibly experience,” Moon said.
Moon emphasized the importance of a necessary paradigm shift towards a “people-centric economy”, an economic philosophy that has served as his guiding purpose since inauguration. He reiterated his full backing for the core target areas for the government, the trifecta of jobs and income growth, more innovation and fair economy.
Regarding employment and the minimum wage hike that went into effect this year, the president said measures to aid small business owners struggling with the wage increase will be implemented without fail. In addition, Moon said special targeted actions must be taken in the next three to four years to tackle the problem of youth unemployment, and proposed as solutions the transitioning of irregular and temporary staff to full-time employment, closing the wage gap, shrinking working hours and improving quality of jobs.
Moon’s confidence in the economic policies initiated in his first year as president remained unshaken despite a question raised by a journalist concerning the not insignificant difficulties employers have been facing due to the minimum wage boost.
Moon responded, “Though it is possible that the higher minimum wage can for a certain period put a damper on hiring for a select number of employers, the general outlook is that when the change takes root, the economy will rebound and there will be more jobs.”
With stories proliferating of business owners getting creative in ways to reduce the increased financial burden brought about by their employees’ bigger paychecks, Moon’s comments are seen as a declaration of his faith in the necessity of the minimum wage hike.
On foreign policy, Moon repeatedly mentioned “peace” when speaking on North Korea and the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Saying “war on the peninsula cannot happen again”, Moon revealed his core goals to be the easing of geopolitical tensions and securing peace.
Moon’s New Year’s address came a day after talks were held between South and North Korean high-ranking officials in Panmunjom, the complex straddling the border dividing the two nations. The talks were the first of their kind in over two years.
Speaking on the bilateral talks, which have so far resulted in the North agreeing to send a delegation of athletes to the Olympics along with a cheering and performance team, Moon said, “The once completely blocked channel of communication with the North has now been reopened. It is a new beginning.”
Moon expressed his willingness to hold expanded talks, saying, “I am open to an inter-Korea summit, or any kind of meeting whatsoever should it contribute to strengthening the North and South relationship and resolving the nuclear dilemma.” The president also indicated that he would continue to work even more closely with South Korea’s allies and the international community in pursuing an end to North Korea’s nuclear program, and also singled out American President Donald Trump’s role in placing pressure on the North Korean regime as having been particularly impactful.
Despite his overtures to Pyongyang, Moon stressed that the South will not deviate from its position that the peninsula must be nuclear-free.
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)