In a conference marking his 100th days after inauguration, President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea stated that he “will always attend to what the people wants,” reminding that “there have been support as well as pinching criticisms from the people.” During the 20 minutes of opening statement, President Yoon also detailed out what his administration has achieved to-date, which include rebuilding Korea-U.S. alliance by holding a bilateral summit, aligning the country’s economic policy with global standards. He also acknowledged innovating regulations and stabilizing real estate market as achievements. Despite what he suggested, it would not be accurate to depict the 100th days of journey after the inauguration as a soft-landing given his approval rating dropped to late 20 to early 30 percent level.
One of the most notable issues stems from failure to vet the right personnel for his administration. The president office has disproportionately selected personnel who have prosecutor’s background and personal relations with President Yoon, which caused widespread controversies over string-pulling recruitment. The seats of ministers, who are supposed to lead innovations in education and pensions policy, are remain vacant as the office had failed to validate the candidate properly. While President Yoon says he “will take a close look on the matter from the view of the people,” he never mentioned how he will lead the reform in hiring the government officers. That is, the president has failed to meet the expectations of Korean people in terms of the willingness to lead the reform, not to mention to failing to suggest any plan to do so. Amid such circumstance, the appointment of emergency steering committee member for ruling party is even harder to justify, considering the person is an ex-investigator in prosecutors’ office and another acquaintance of the president. This raises question about whether the ruling party really understands what makes people turn their back against the president regarding the personnel issue.
Among the key achievements the president mentioned, included pursuing income-driven growths and scrapping nuclear power phase-out. While it is desirable for the new power to fix errors generated by the previous administration, such actions should be based on concrete plans or visions, not on groundless disapprovals to their predecessor’s actions. However, there is no vision or plans on sight suggested from the current government. Without a clear agenda encompassing the overall state affairs, no wonder people have been constantly criticizing that there is no visibility on where the administration is heading toward.
Moreover, in order for the new government policies, which include August 16 housing supply measures and corporate tax revision, to bear fruits, necessary legislations need to be passed. This requires consent and cooperations from the large-scale opposition parties holding over the half of the seats. Still, there has been no news about the president having talks with the opposition’s leadership on such matter. He needs to step up the efforts to convene candid conversations with the opposition to create positive results from his policy.
During this opening speech, the president mentioned ‘the people’ 20 times. He probably had hoped to show his willingness to listen to the people’s voice by repeating the words. What people need, however, are concrete actions and implementation of plans, not just the word. It is the president’s responsibility to lead the reforms and bring about changes. Blaming his staff officer or the opposition party does not help. Also, if his way of speaking or attitude has been misunderstood as arrogant, the president needs to change that as well. That will be the first step toward the real administrative reform.