S. Korean Pres­i­dent Fires Eco­nomic Pol­icy Chiefs


SEOUL (Dis­patches) - South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in sacked two top eco­nomic of­fi­cials on Fri­day to jump-start his in­come-based growth pol­icy, even as his lofty wage hikes ended up hurt­ing the jobs mar­ket amid a lack­lus­ter econ­omy.

The Blue House spokesman an­nounced the re­moval of Econ­omy and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Kim Dong-yeon and chief of staff for pol­icy Jang Ha-sung, the two men who had been at the con­trol tower of Moon’s eco­nomic pol­icy.

Kim, a pro-growth eco­nomic bu­reau­crat, had spat­ted with Jang, an aca­demic more fo­cused on re­duc­ing in­equal­ity, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that they would be re­moved be­fore year-end, upon pas­sage of next fiscal year’s na­tional bud­get.

The fi­nal nail in the cof­fin ap­par­ently came on Wed­nes­day when Kim told law­mak­ers that he did not agree that the econ­omy was in cri­sis. Kim in­stead painted the sit­u­a­tion as a “cri­sis in po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing con­cern­ing the econ­omy,” which many in­ter­preted as a broad­side against Moon’s govern­ment. Moon was forced to act quickly to con­tain the po­lit­i­cal fall­out. Hong Nam-ki, most re­cently min­is­ter of the Of­fice for Govern­ment Pol­icy Co­or­di­na­tion, has been named to re­place Kim as econ­omy and fi­nance min­is­ter. Hong, also a vet­eran eco­nomic bu­reau­crat, will of­fi­cially take of­fice af­ter a par­lia­men­tary hear­ing.

Jang’s re­place­ment, so­cial pol­icy pres­i­den­tial sec­re­tary Kim Soo-hyun, as­sumes his new post im­me­di­ately. As an ex­pert in real es­tate is­sues and a pol­icy guru, he is one of Moon’s clos­est aides. As a staunch lib­eral, Kim Soo-hyun is ex­pected to ad­vance the “in­come-driven” growth pol­icy that aims to bol­ster the econ­omy through job growth and wage in­creases.

But Moon’s re­dis­tri­bu­tion-fo­cused pol­icy is far from a suc­cess. The econ­omy has de­cel­er­ated in part be­cause of the 16.4% min­i­mum-wage hike im­ple­mented in Jan­uary.

Such small busi­nesses as con­ve­nience store fran­chises and eater­ies have stopped hir­ing work­ers in re­sponse.

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