There is a crisis in South Korea right now. Housing prices have skyrocketed, making buying homes a dream for most young families. At the moment, the traditional way of building wealth is much too lucrative for the average person, and it has become the realm of speculative investing/gambling the same way stocks and cryptocurrencies are. I’m not sure if there’s anything the government can do to calm the market down, but as far as I can tell, they’re not doing anything that could effectively make things better for people. Along with the housing crisis is the current unemployment/wage crisis. The government’s attempt to regulate time spent in the office and prevent overworking as well as their push to increase minimum wage has made companies reluctant to hire new employees. The job market was already tough before the Moon Jae-In administration, but their recent actions have made it more difficult for young people to find jobs. There are even been reports that many graduates have given up on finding lifelong employment and have settled on multiple part-time work or the gig economy. There is good intent in increasing the minimum wage in South Korea which is woefully low for a country with such high living costs, and there should be regulations in a culture which pressures workers to stay at work long after regular business hours have passed, but I feel like the rollout of these initiatives should’ve been coupled with incentives for big and small businesses to follow-through. Carrots and sticks. In any case, things are not good in South Korea at the moment. With Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) coming next week, there is very little to be grateful for in many Korean households.
Which is the reason why the President’s North Korean expedition rubs me the wrong way. It reeks of tone deafness and bad politics. While things are, at best, stagnant domestically, Moon Jae-In continues to pursue relations with North Korea when Kim Jung Un has yet to demonstrate that he is a good actor when it comes to negotiations regarding nuclear disarmament. Why is this the priority when people in the country are struggling to make a future for themselves, when the wealth gap between those invested in the real estate market and those just starting their families and career are getting to be so wide that more and more people are getting into crippling debt? I kid with some people sometimes, but a part of me believe that at some point, the only people who can afford the high rise apartments continually being built all over Seoul would be Chinese investors. Re-establishing the Kaesong Industrial Complex is not going to help the average Korean. It’s not going to make it easier to buy a house or get a proper job.
If anything, Kim Jung Un promising to denuclearize and allow nuclear inspectors is good politically for the one person who has not risked anything to push for disarmament: Donald Trump. While Moon Jae-In is running around North Korea, his victories towards nuclear disarmament are claimed by Donald Trump. I understand that nuclear disarmament benefits everyone, but here it seems he is working far too hard for the benefit of someone who really couldn’t care less. Also, who did Moon Jae-In bring with him to his recent trip? Three heads of Korean companies, two of whom have recently skirted Korean laws. It’s just awful, awful optics. Not only is the average Korean not going to benefit from the North Korean summit, but it appears that those who will gain are giant companies whose heads can break Korean laws and still continue to operate their multi-billion dollar companies. The Samsung heir who conspired with the previous administration and was convicted is attempting to rehabilitate his image with this trip to North Korea and the government is giving him the opportunity to do so. Awful.
Give up, boys and girls. Winners and losers are born. If you were not born a winner, give up already. That Samsung heir, boy, is he a winner!
Now, I agree that governments can’t be focused on one thing only and that the current domestic crisis is quite complicated and would require a solution lengthier than a couple of days-worth of socializing with communists, but I just find the whole thing inept and a tad misguided. While Moon Jae-In might be noble in his intent, I believe Kim Jung Un is simply looking for a photo op at the moment. And this, in a nutshell, is my problem with the current administration. While much better than the past administrations, it is far too invested on its good intentions and not so much on effective policy. Not being evil and getting elected is one thing, but actually running the government effectively is another. I feel like this current North Korean trip, with the backdrop of the domestic crises shows that the Moon Jae-In government is far too starry-eyed with its own ideals. And for that, they will get punished politically by their opponents. (It pains for me to say it, but they should.) It will be a loss for them politically, but that’s small compared to the huge impact the current crises is inflicting upon young Koreans.