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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 5)

2018/11/05 07:02

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Imminent reshuffle

It appears to be imminent for President Moon Jae-in to replace the finance minister and the presidential economic policy chief. Although the presidential office denied any reshuffle plans, it is necessary to form a new economic team in a bid to tackle the worsening economic situation and create more jobs.

Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are accepting media reports about the impending reshuffle as a fait accompli. They seem to believe Cheong Wa Dae has already decided to replace the two officials; and say it is time to change the economic lineup to inject fresh air into Moon's presidency which was inaugurated in May 2017.

There are many reasons to replace Economy and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon and presidential economic policy chief Jang Ha-sung. The two have frequently clashed over how to manage the economy.

Before becoming President Moon's economic policy adviser, Jang was a business professor and civic activist who advocated for equal distribution of wealth. He helped Moon shape his inclusive growth model. Jang has stuck firmly to the President's much-avowed income-led growth policy, despite its ill effects.

However, Minister Kim, a career economic bureaucrat, has focused on reviving the economy by stimulating innovation and pushing for deregulation. But he has not produced successful results because Moon has so far preferred the income-driven growth policy to a market-oriented formula.

Against this backdrop, the conflict between Kim and Jang has often been seen as a power game over who leads and what policy to implement. This feud has inevitably dealt a severe blow to the economy. So Moon should no longer delay filling the two important economic posts with new figures, holding Kim and Jang accountable for the current economic woes.

What's disappointing is that Moon is trying not to give the impression that Kim and Jang should be replaced for their failure to stimulate job creation, bring higher wages to the working class and reinvigorate the economy. This is certainly because the President ultimately does not want to admit his policy failure.

Even though the economy keeps suffering a decline in production, consumption and investment, President Moon made clear in a speech at the National Assembly last week that he will continue his drive for income-led growth. So we have to ask: How can the government achieve economic recovery without changing course? It would be naive to believe only a change in policymakers will solve the problem.

Sources close to Cheong Wa Dae speculated that Minister Kim is likely to be replaced by Hong Nam-ki, chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination under the prime minister. They also said Kim Su-hyun, senior presidential secretary for social affairs, is on the list of candidates to succeed Jang.

Whoever becomes the next top economic policymakers, they cannot reverse the looming recession as long as Moon is obsessed with his ill-timed and half-baked policy experiment. Let the new economic team adopt a new policy to push for structural reform, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and strengthen the competitiveness of Korea Inc.

(END)

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