November 12, 2019 13:27
President Moon Jae-in claimed in a meeting with senior staff on Monday that his administration resurrected a country whose very foundation had collapsed and is currently "spreading the values of justice throughout society." Moon added that his government has achieved "miraculous changes" on the Korean Peninsula. The ruling Minjoo Party was equally fulsome, congratulating itself on the "unimaginable changes" it has wrought. Politicians have to blow their own trumpet, but this government is beginning to sound as if it has taken leave of its senses.
The economy has fallen into a deep slump and jobs have disappeared since Moon stepped into power, while North Korea's willingness to denuclearize has been exposed as a sham. Hundreds of thousands hit the streets in anger and disgust at Moon's appointment of Cho Kuk as justice minister until Cho finally quit with his tail between his legs. Unless "spreading the values of justice" means appointing a man you know to be corrupt to the top post in the field over the heads of more or less the whole population, it would perhaps have been wiser if Moon had left that synonym for "catastrophic policy failure" out of his remarks.
But Cheong Wa Dae officials are spewing similar mind-boggling nonsense on a daily basis. The presidential spokeswoman justified spiraling public spending with the peculiar observation, "Keeping crops in storage only causes them to rot." Of course pump-priming requires the government to open its coffers, but now they are empty. The fiscal deficit has already reached a staggering W57 trillion, the highest on record (US$1=W1,167). Tax revenues have declined due to the economic slump and lackluster corporate earnings, but the government's expenditures have increased more than 11 percent compared to last year. It is the government's duty to make sure that taxpayers' money is used as efficiently as possible, but Cheong Wa Dae thinks it is doing a sterling job splurging it on stopgap welfare handouts so it does not "rot." Economic common sense too has gone out of the window.
One of Korea's biggest strengths in the eyes of foreigners used to be its fiscal soundness. Previous administrations have resisted the temptation to splurge taxpayers' money, which allowed the country to emerge successfully from the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis. But every year since Moon took office, the government's fiscal spending has increased close to 10 percent, causing state finances to deteriorate rapidly. The long-held principle of keeping fiscal debt below 40 percent of GDP has been jettisoned at Moon's behest, and he has blown W70 trillion on temporary part-time jobs for the elderly in such vital economic sectors as picking up leaves. Now provincial governments are racing each other to see who can spend more taxpayers' money on unnecessary handouts, and the central government is clapping its little hands in delight.
Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party insist that the economy is "headed in the right direction," which is evidently down the drain. Quality jobs are disappearing fast, but government officials insist that the "quality and quantity" of jobs have improved and only professional malcontents are refusing to see it. The government's integrity is in tatters, yet the ruling party claims that the country is becoming "more just." It is clear that no government official is willing to take responsibility for failed policies, and that will not change for the remainder of Moon's tenure. Maybe the worst has yet to come.
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