April 09, 2021 13:11
President Moon Jae-in had a flunkey read a brief statement on his behalf Thursday after the ruling Minjoo Party's humiliating defeat in the mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. "I will solemnly accept voters' chastisement and govern more humbly," it said. "I will devote my efforts to overcoming the coronavirus epidemic, stabilizing the livelihood of the people and rooting out corruption in the real estate market." And that was it. There was no mention of replacing any inept Cheong Wa Dae officials or of changing any of his harebrained policies.
In Seoul, the Minjoo Party lost in all 25 districts and was defeated by more than 18 percentage points, and in Busan it lost all 16 districts by more than 28 percentage points. That is how unpopular it is. No ruling party has been trounced by such a margin since its predecessor, the Uri Party, in the dying days of the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2006.
But the president seems to think that his humiliation was only a matter of disappointment over soaring apartment prices and windfall gains made by public servants through land speculation. That is naïve. The problem is that pent-up frustration during the four years of Moon's term is finally boiling over. The MP is pinning the blame on different causes, but they are all ignoring the elephant in the room, which is the president's total failure to govern effectively.
Since he was elected on a platform of fairness, reform and justice, Moon has paddled furiously in the opposite direction. He appointed as justice ministers, of all positions, Cho Kuk, Choo Mi-ae and Park Beom-kye who have become symbols of corruption and shamelessness. He meddled in elections so that an old friend could be elected mayor of Ulsan in 2018, and although he ordered prosecutors to make "no exceptions" in investigating high-ranking government officials, he desperately tried to oust the prosecutor-general he himself had appointed when the investigations got too close to his own office for comfort. When public frustration and anger mounted over his failed "income-led growth" policy, nuclear phase-out and disastrous real-estate policies, he did not bat an eyelid, and he has yet to apologize for his government's dismal failure to secure enough coronavirus vaccines.
The ruling party was only able to win elections because the opposition was in hopeless disarray. But this time voters had enough. "Anyone but Moon," could have been their desperate slogan. They cast their votes to express their anger at the president, and the MP would have lost no matter which candidates it fielded.
And still Moon shows no sign of relenting. He hid behind the curtains and let his chief secretary read two sentences on his behalf. Any decent person would at least have the guts to stand in front of the people and bow down to the ground.
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