SOUTH KORE­ANS WANT NEW LEADER TO CRE­ATE JOBS

Can­di­dates’ su­per­fi­cial talk about jobs can­not win pub­lic sup­port, says an­a­lyst

New Straits Times - - World -

SEOUL

CRE­AT­ING jobs, end­ing cor­rup­tion and boost­ing stub­bornly low birthrates should be high on a to-do list for South Korea’s next pres­i­dent af­ter a cam­paign mostly dom­i­nated by se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy is­sues.

There’s con­cern that the econ­omy will likely take a back­seat to North Korea when South Kore­ans pick their leader to­mor­row.

Vot­ers have been rat­tled by a row over who should foot the bill for a United States anti-mis­sile sys­tem de­ployed in the coun­try to de­fend against North Korean ag­gres­sion, af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested that South Korea should pay more for US se­cu­rity com­mit­ment.

Pub­lic de­mand for change in the South’s eco­nomic sys­tem re­mains high, as growth and wealth con­tinue to be con­cen­trated in the hands of top few fam­ily-run busi­ness giants, known as chae­bol.

Anger over al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion be­tween big busi­nesses and the govern­ment trig­gered mas­sive months-long protests that led to the ouster of for­mer pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye in March and the ar­rest of the de­facto leader at Sam­sung, South Korea’s largest busi­ness group.

Lead­ing pres­i­den­tial con­tenders have tried to tap into the dis­con­tent over eco­nomic in­jus­tice, high youth un­em­ploy­ment and in­creased in­equal­ity be­tween those with full-time jobs at chae­bol and those who are un­der­em­ployed or look­ing for work.

But the lack of con­crete re­form plans means that none of their eco­nomic agenda gained much at­ten­tion dur­ing the cam­paign.

“Can­di­dates fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions from the pub­lic and could not thor­oughly cover the re­form agenda to change the eco­nomic sys­tem,” said Park Sang-in, a pro­fes­sor at Seoul Na­tional Uni­ver­sity’s Grad­u­ate School of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Their talks of jobs and in­no­va­tion are so su­per­fi­cial that they can­not win pub­lic sup­port.”

On jobs, the two main con­tenders hold dif­fer­ent views on what the govern­ment should do.

Moon Jae-in, the front-run­ner from the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party, be­lieves that a big­ger govern­ment would be bet­ter for cre­at­ing jobs and said South Korea needs more pub­lic work­ers.

His main ri­val Ahn Cheol-soo also puts jobs high on his pol­icy agenda, but says the govern­ment should not be heavy-handed in in­ter­ven­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor and in­stead fo­cus on mak­ing the mar­kets fair and friend­lier for in­no­va­tion. AP

REUTERS PIC

Sup­port­ers of Moon Jae-in at a cam­paign rally in Chungju, South Korea, yes­ter­day.

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