July 31, 2020 13:53
The phrase, "Do you think you own this country? is being bandied about on the Internet to criticize the government's failed attempts to tame real-estate prices with punitive taxes. But that question does not seem to be restricted to the realm of real estate but reflects broader discontent over the high-handed conduct of the Moon Jae-in administration.
The president has only a single, five-year term to run the country. That may or may not be too short, but it means that there are things he can do and things he cannot. Moon only has a year and 10 months left in office, and almost 60 percent of voters did not vote for him in the first place. Even the gap in the general election between the ruling party and the disorganized opposition was just 8.5 percent. That did result in a vast majority of parliamentary seats for the ruling Minjoo Party, but a considerable proportion of Koreans did not vote for this government. Yet Moon behaves as if everybody had and all that remains for him is to be crowned king.
The ruling party immediately set to work bulldozing through some of the most stupid laws in the history of the country that have a huge impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. Late last year, the ruling party and its proxies waved through a new budget without even showing the opposition what was inside. Such practices have now become routine. Minjoo lawmakers have hogged every single parliamentary committee, and opposition lawmakers were only allocated to them at the whim of the ruling party. Meanwhile the president has far appointed 25 minister-level officials against the express vote of the opposition, more than double the number of ex-President Park Geun-hye, who is rightly in jail for running an authoritarian operetta court. Parliamentary confirmation hearings have become pointless.
When residential property values soared due to the government's failed real-estate policies, it suddenly raised the old specter of moving the administrative capital again to divert public attention from its failures. What government in its right mind would consider moving the administrative capital just to tame real estate prices? No thought whatsoever went into the huge cost of the relocation project, and no reason was given why it is suddenly necessary again. The government has made a habit of massive pump-priming projects as a cure-all. The Constitutional Court ruled back in 2004 that the capital cannot be moved, but the head of the Minjoo Party said it can simply revise the Constitution, while the party's floor leader said, "We can change the decision of the court" now many judges were picked by the current administration. Perhaps they own the Constitutional Court as well.
In 2018, Cheong Wa Dae was behind the politically motivated probe of the former mayor of Ulsan so a crony of Moon's could replace him. Moon then appointed Cho Kook as justice minister despite an ongoing corruption probe and massive street protests, and the clown lasted barely a month in office. The authority to appoint public officials is not in the personal gift of the president in a democratic country. When Moon appointed a new prosecutor-general, he told him to be "strict" with those in authority. But as soon as an actual scandal involving Cheong Wa Dae officials erupted, Moon stymied the probe by dismantling the prosecutor-general's investigation team and looking to set up an even more compliant new body. Not even past dictators resorted to such blatant rigging. Key positions in the Justice Ministry are now occupied by cronies to Moon, and investigations into government officials aligned with the ruling party suddenly lost steam. The courts released a key aide of the president's who had been accused of taking bribes, while making up excuses to issue arrest warrants for people who could help Moon drive out the prosecutor-general.
Moon also thinks he owns the country's power supply. At a whim and without any concrete plans for their replacement, he decided to shut down Korea's world-class nuclear power plants, damaging its burgeoning nuclear power industry beyond repair in the eyes of global clients. Energy supply is essential for the country's economic development and the lives of ordinary citizens, yet Moon, who has just this single, five-year term at his disposal, is determined to wreak as much irreversible damage as he can. A quarter of universities across the country are expected to close down within the next five years due to a decrease in the number of students, but the president intends to spend trillions in taxpayers' money to build a KEPCO tech university, as a little monument to himself.
All the while he has ordered state-run companies to give all temporary workers permanent positions. Incheon International Airport Corporation, which is suffering from massive losses, has just led the way by making subcontracted security guards permanent employees of an airport without passengers, with all the regular pay rises and essentially lifelong job guarantees that entails. There are many more such cases and violations of democratic practice. All these catastrophic mistakes were only possible because the government thinks it owns the country. The potentially catastrophic repercussions, of course, will bite the next government in the backside, while Moon will be living out his days in a stately grace-and-favor home financed by the taxpayer. Who will hold him to account?
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