Monday, June 1, 2020
Awful Things Lie Ahead of South Korea
Publisher Note
Awful Things Lie Ahead of South Korea
  • By Jack H. Park
  • May 4, 2020, 16:48
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Ruling Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan (second from right in the front row) chants for the party’s 2020 general election victory at the 2019 Summer Seminar of Female Party Members.

The conservative party of South Korea suffered a crushing defeat at the April 15 general elections. As a result, the Moon Jae-in administration came to dominate the executive, judicial and legislative branches for the first time since the nation's democratization in 1987 to complete a single huge power.

For the past three years, the left-wing administration’s interest was just to extend its power by winning the general elections. During the period, the government came up with a series of policies to serve the political purpose with national interests and the future of the nation neglected. The examples include income-led growth, excessive minimum wage adjustment, excessive working hour reduction, nuclear phase-out, delayed labor reform, corporate bashing and anti-market regulations.

The policies have led to dire consequences. The Moon Jae-in administration has been busy misleading the public, instead of fixing what is wrong, in the face of more than enough evidences of side and adverse effects. It has blamed the others and lied over and over. In addition, it has created fake jobs by pouring taxpayers’ money and tampered with economic indices and figures.

Its economic failure should have led to its defeat at the elections. However, voters were blinded by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the ruling party’s and government’s spending to take advantage of the situation determined the winner and the loser. The opposition parties could not criticize them as being populist with both the United States and Europe pouring money in order to deal with the disaster.

In the end, the casting vote was exercised by those who chased the government’s disaster relief money, one million won at best, while refusing to hold those in power responsible. Those voters do not regard populism as a target of criticism and would not be concerned even if South Korea falls into a situation similar to those of some Southern European and Latin American countries. The Moon Jae-in administration’s strategy of holding out until the elections resulted in a paradoxical success, taking advantage of the pandemic.

The defeat of the conservative party resulted from its failure in terms of reality check, too. The party remained obsessed with cold war and anti-communism paradigms, which are no longer valid. It clung to the myth of industrialization in the 1970s while ignoring today’s zeitgeist of fairness, solidarity and coexistence. Its indifference to the new values caused young voters to turn their back on the conservative party.

Under the circumstances, the ruling party is not planning to change its policy direction. Despite worsening economic indices, it is focusing on nothing but the 2022 presidential election to retain its power. The Moon Jae-in administration is leaning on the pandemic situation to do so, but the repercussions of the pandemic will reveal its incompetence and irresponsibility rather than covering up its failure. This is because statistical manipulations and makeshift measures based on taxpayers’ money would not be effective anymore amid a radical turndown of the national economy.

The financial resources of the government are already running out and large-scale government bond issuance is likely to continue. The government’s soaring debts cannot but lead to a lower sovereign credit rating and a bigger economic crisis. The voters who produced the result of the recent elections will have to face a new experience in which populism prevails with what is wrong not fixed at all; they will encounter a country that they have never had, as the President Moon said at his inauguration speech three years ago.