President Jae-in Moon was sworn in on May 10 following the candlelit election that took place after the impeachment. Since then, he has been receiving record-high support rates from the public with high hopes for a new government: one with carefully designated power, legitimately collected opinions, swiftly executed orders in times of emergency, and a vision for the seomin, the ordinary people, of Korea. The KAIST Herald’s first look at President Moon was in Volume 154, whose feature articles covered the immediate day-to-day activities of the new administration. These included announcing new plans for national defense, calling on a war against graft and corruption, and appointing/ recommending new cabinet members.
155 days since his inauguration, President Moon has been disclosing his longer-term plans for Korea. News reports and press releases have rolled out core aspects of serving the welfare of the Korean people in multiple ways. During the televised debates with other presidential candidates, the then-candidate Moon was frequently interrupted by claims questioning the financial feasibility of his plans. Some even declared that President Moon’s math does not “add up”. After all those political attacks, it seems that he is determined to prove just how he and his colleagues are going to implement better welfare with as little tax increase as possible. It does sound very challenging — almost ambitious — to turn around the numbers in everyone’s favor: the government’s for increased trust and support from the people and the people’s for their awareness of tax revenue usage.
For a closer look at President Moon’s plans, the following sections will focus on three key aspects requiring immediate attention from supporters and critics alike: education, health, and housing.
Education is often titled the strongest and weakest point of Korea’s competence. The former title arises from the well-acknowledged performance of Korea’s pre-university students. With particular prowess in science and mathematics, elementary, middle, and high school students of Korea have been consistently at the world-class level according to, say, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) or the International Mathematical Olympiad. However, beyond and including the university level, Korea isn’t the brightest star on the world stage. The uncreative learning styles at high schools, in conjunction with the deadly fierce competition leading students into university, are said to provide college freshmen with an exaggerated sense of achievement when, in fact, college is seen as the beginning of the real learning process in many other cultures. As such, policies related to education, and college entrance in particular, are extremely sensitive topics for parents and students. We review what challenges lie ahead for Korea’s education and how the Moon administration aims to tackle them.
Health, on the surface, might seem to be a low-priority issue for Korea, with the country’s insurance covering many treatments and medication that would cost tenfold in the US, for example. However, contrary to popular belief, the uneven distribution of wealth and income, together with the aging population and the shrinking workforce, makes health an issue of utmost importance. As a president aspiring to speak for the seomin, it is reasonable to think that President Moon deemed it a necessity to announce his “Moon Jae-in Care” plans devised specifically for the benefit of the vulnerable population including the elderly, homeless, uneducated/unskilled, and orphans. The million-dollar question, again, is how to secure the financial resources needed for Moon Care. On top of Moon Care details, we also discuss the candidate financial reservoirs and the pros and cons of the alternatives.
Housing has long been a favorite issue among politicians. How many houses should be built? Where should they be built? Who should be provided housing for lower costs? These are only a few of the questions that need to be addressed in the domain of housing policies agenda. Housing policies are also leaning towards supporting the vulnerable population, with specific plans for those who cannot afford houses yet. On the other side of the income spectrum, people may not be happy to see their real estate investments fail, so the Moon administration must strike the balance between provision of new homes and supply control for more stable house prices. Being a small territory given the population, Korea needs especially well-thought out policies for housing and more balanced development across the nation. We thus analyze the specifics of President Moon’s housing plans.
With the dust of political turmoil settled, now seems an appropriate moment to more objectively diagnose the Moon administration’s policies and promises. Below, we put together three critical analyses as previously outlined.