[THE INVESTOR] After a year in office, President Moon Jae-in still enjoys an approval rate that would make any political leader jealous -- a whopping 80 percent. His popularity was boosted by the recent inter-Korean summit, but his following had been pretty solid to begin with, as it was backed by his open communication style and leadership. The economic scoreboard, however, was not all good news, and The Investor believes the government was only medicore in this area. Below shows where the Moon government should head to maintain its popularity.
Hit the Chaebol on the nail
“Basically, there has been no chaebol reforms in the first year,” said Park Sang-in, a public administration professor at Seoul National University said on May 3 during a debate on Moon’s chaebol policy.
Park’s disappointment is partly due to the somewhat dashed hopes for Chaebol Sniper Kim Sang-jo -- head of the Fair Trade Commission, the country’s antitrust agency -- to eliminate unfair business practices for small and medium enterprises and to reduce cross-shareholdings at conglomerates.
FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo
Korea's top financial authorities -- Financial Services Commission (left) and Financial Supervisory Service
Trickle down effect: job creation
According to a survey by Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice on May 5, while his overall leadership and communication skills are getting a positive approval of about 75 percent, his employment policies and other economic policies got only 31 percent.
This is despite the government’s top priority being creating jobs. President Moon installed a job board in his office a year ago to monitor employment situation real time, making job creating a clear mandate for his administration. In addition to the job monitor, the Finance Ministry last year placed an 11.2 trillion won ($10 billion) supplementary budget to boost employment and support small and medium businesses.
The figures unfortunately do not match the financial and moral support from the government. The jobless rate stood at 4.5 percent in March, a 17-year high, while the youth unemployment level reached a dangerous level of 11.6 percent in the same month.
The government is saying that its focus has been changing the fundamentals of the job market and improving the quality of employment by taking several measures including increasing the minimum wage by 16.4 percent, shifting non-regular workers to regular employment and reducing working hours.
President Moon emphasized during the New Year speech that extraordinary approaches will be required over the next three to four years.
But experts point out that unless the local corporate sector sits up to take up a bigger role in creating more jobs, it will be impossible for the government to do it on its own.
By Park Ga-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)