January 3, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday has vowed to “correct the evils that hinder the growth and development of the economy” while putting immediate livelihood issues at the forefront.
At a meeting with key figures from government, politics and religion on Monday morning to exchange New Year’s greetings, Yoon said, “If we are easily defeated by the resistance of those with vested interests, our sustainable prosperity will be difficult.”
Although the president did not specify what exact evils and vested interests, officials of the presidential office said he appears to be referring to unions.
In his New Year’s address the previous day, Yoon, who put labor reform as a top priority, referred to “well-paid, yet demanding unions” as people with “vested interests,” asserting that “there is no future for a country that is preoccupied with vested interests and rent-seeking.”
Yoon is expected to respond to strong opposition from the labor community, which is expected to emerge through the process of labor reform, with “law and principle,” as he exemplified during the truckers’ protests late last year.
“Three major reforms of labor, education and pension are difficult, but they are the path we must take and the people have ordered us to do so,” he said.
He also said the role of government has become “more important than ever” with weakening of the World Trade Organization system, intensifying competition for technological supremacy, geopolitical conflicts and global blocs.
Yoon pledged to take good care of the “government’s close support for foreign affairs, trade and science technology” while maintaining a private-led market-oriented stance.
Solidarity with the international community based on universal values is not only our constitutional value but also “protects our national interests” and will give us “more economic opportunities, he said.
Meanwhile, the prospect of “cooperation” with the opposition party is not bright. Confrontation with the main opposition Democratic Party is expected to continue for a considerable period as the “judicial risk” surrounding party leader Lee Jae-myung continues.
The meeting was attended by around 80 politicians, but without Lee and other Democratic Party lawmakers.
When asked by reporters why Lee was absent, Cheon Joon-ho, chief secretary to the Democratic Party, said the party received an e-mail from the Interior Ministry but Lee could not attend the meeting due to other appointments on Monday.
In an interview with The Chosun Ilbo released on Monday, when told by a reporter that “the president should cooperate and communicate with the opposition party, but relations with them are not good,” Yoon replied, “We should get along, but we have very different thoughts. The conversation is very difficult.”
“The ruling party should have frequent conversations with the opposition party and try to solve problems in the National Assembly through communication with the Speakers,” he said.