News Analysis: Challenges facing new South Korean president

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-10 11:38:10|Editor: ying
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By Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Moon Jae-in of the liberal Minjoo Party was sworn in as South Korea's new president in the parliament building, hours after winning a landslide victory in the presidential race, TV footage showed here Wednesday.

South Korea's National Election Commission (NEC) on Wednesday morning declared Moon Jae-in the winner of the presidential election and Moon started duties of presidency right after the confirmation.

Moon won the South Korean presidential election with a landslide victory, defeating his conservative and centrist rivals by a large margin.

Without any leisure to enjoy jubilance, he may have to realize "a mountain of" challenges to tackle as the people power-driven impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye revealed troubles every nook and corner.

Income inequality widened, household debts piled up and unemployment rate, especially for youths, surged under conservative presidents in the past nine years.

Demand for political reform strengthened as the influence-peddling scandal embroiling Park, who is now on trial on corruption charges, recalled the long-standing problem of "imperial presidency."

Issues on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have always been viewed by any South Korean leader as significant given the divided Korean Peninsula.

"There is a mountain of tasks Moon should deal with. Moon may not feel comfortable with his victory because of the tasks," said Jang Seok-joon, vice president of local think tank Future Politics Center.

The long-running, complicated economic slump can be picked as the most urgent issue to be tackled by the new president. The crisis on the economic front stemmed mainly from the weakening of private consumption.

Weaker consumption was relevant to household debts continuing to top previous highs. The Bank of Korea (BOK) cut its benchmark interest rate from 3.25 percent in July 2012 to an all-time low of 1.25 percent in June 2016.

The previous conservative governments encouraged households to purchase new homes with borrowed money in a bid to reinvigorate the lackluster economy by forming a bubble in the real estate market.

The earnings gap between conglomerates and smaller companies widened, while getting a decent job got difficult as the youth jobless rate frequently rose above 10 percent.

"Domestically, the most urgent challenge facing the new government is a faltering private consumption," said Seo Bok Kyung, a researcher at Sogang University's Institute of Political Studies in Seoul.

Moon pledged a supplementary budget plan and job creation in the public sector, which were aimed to increase household income and reduce shocks from higher interest rates, according to the researcher.

Seo said interest rates here would inevitably go up amid the expected rate hike in the United States, advising that the Moon administration actively deal with it from the very beginning of his presidency.

In the political arena, a great change is forecast to be made with the constitutional amendment advocated by the new president during his campaign trail. Moon pledged to put the constitutional revision to a referendum in 2018 when local elections are scheduled.

The amendment was brought up by former conservative presidents.

Those attempts ended up in failure as the proposals were made late in their single, five-year terms as a means to distract public attention from controversial issues. Moon's push is expected to be launched early in his presidency.

With Park's impeachment, calls mounted for the constitutional revision to weaken an excessive presidential power and change an election system, especially for legislators, to link the precise percentage of votes to the number of parliamentary seats.

Demand also grew for reforms on conglomerates, called chaebol here, and prosecutors controlled by presidential powers as well as conservative media outlets attempting to broadcast biased views.

"I hope Moon will hold a referendum next year for the constitutional revision as promised, though it could undermine his executive power," said Jang at local think tank Future Politics Center.

The DPRK will become another main issue facing Moon who has championed a rapprochement approach toward the northern neighbor.

Seo, the researcher at Sogang University's Institute of Political Studies, said Moon should try to take the initiative in the peninsula issues under the principle that his top priority of security and diplomatic policies is put on peace on the peninsula.