The inauguration speech by
President Moon Jae-in on May
10 was more than just moving.
The new president proclaimed
that all conflicts among regions, income
classes and generations will be removed.
He also pledged to usher in an era of zero
irregular employment and zero discrimination,
creating equal opportunities for
all. He promised to make South Korea a
better country by being transparent and
Throughout Moon’s presidential campaign, fairness, reform and unity were three heavily emphasized points in his economic vision for 2017, more widely known as ‘J-nomics’. Referring to the Constitution, he pinpointed the dignity and value of human beings (Article 10), the right to work (Article 32) and the right to enjoy a dignifying life (Article 34). He also stressed the respect of liberty and creativity of the private sector (Article 119 (1)) and balanced and stable growth with equitable income distribution (Article 119 (2)).
After his inauguration, Moon’s first executive order was to launch a special presidential committee on creating jobs. This administration, not unlike all the others, is expected to put employment policies as its top priority. But the difference is very clear this time—the new government is committed to directly being involved in allocating resources related to job creation. The government is expected to hire more than 10,000 public employees, including fire fighters, policemen, public health experts and education specialist in just this year alone. 810,000 and 174,000 jobs are expected to be created in the public field during the fiveyear administration. The work environment in the private sector is also likely to improve by reducing the maximum legal work hours.
Amid criticism from various sides, however, we can’t deny that more
capable public workers are desperately needed to make Korea safer and more secure. In that respect, his action of creating a wide range of public jobs is more than justified. The president’s first action was to promise to regularize all non-regular workers at Incheon International Airport by the end of this year. President Moon’s action symbolizes his dedication to abolish injustice in Korean society, especially when it comes to employment.
No doubt, the removal of non-regular workers from Korean economy is one of the most crucial and immediate tasks of the administration. But the regularization process of public workers requires very careful planning and preparation. More challenging is the regularization of private sector employees. The government has little authority to forcefully intervene in private hiring practices. This is one of the most cumbersome and controversial areas in government policy. No matter how legitimate it may be, government intervention in private sector employment practices could easily be deemed unconstitutional, causing tense legal battles for both sides. So, the success of President Moon’s pledges hangs heavily on how quickly and actively the private sector will choose to be on the same page. This is why his leadership and capability in getting private sectors to voluntarily
follow his agenda is so important. In addition, Korea’s economy was more focused on growth and output while not paying as much attention to the social aspects of such rapid growth. Making Korea an equal country for all of its people is important not just for the sake of fairness but also for efficiency. Removing unfairness and unequal practices generate social trust, also known as social capital, which makes an economy more productive and fruitful.
After experiencing the Miracle of the Han River in the 1980s and 1990s, Korea is on the verge of undergoing a new miracle caused by the wave of candlelight vigils held on October 2016. This time around, the new economic miracle won’t just produce shimmering skyscrapers and raise GDP; it’ll be a major transformation for human welfare and justice. Spearheaded by the new president, all eyes are on Korea as it moves toward a brighter future.