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Yoon blames opposition party, Moon for reform failures

May 9, 2023 - 17:58 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech during a Cabinet meeting held in his office in Seoul Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday blamed the main opposition party for impeding his push for reform, and hit out at the former Moon Jae-in administration for "leaving the country plagued by crimes due to its policies."

Yoon also accused the Democratic Party of Korea, which controls parliament with 168 out of 300 seats, of using their legislative power to undermine his policy momentum.

"It takes time to rebuild the system, to pick up the pieces and make tangible achievements, but the parliament controlled by the opposition parties have honestly stood in the way of our efforts to come up with the new policies needed for reform," Yoon said in a televised speech a day before he entered his second year in office.

Yoon stressed the need for swift reform, blaming the previous liberal Moon administration for the spread of housing fraud, drug-related crimes and financial fraud affecting small investors.

The Moon administration should be held responsible for laying out "anti-market and abnormal" policies that led to housing market disruption, curtailing prosecution services' power to investigate organized crimes and abolishing a special prosecution unit dedicated to securities fraud, according to Yoon.

"It takes a moment to destroy a system or a building, but it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to bring them back to normal," Yoon said.

Yoon also asked his government to address "errors made by the past administration" and "think about how to change them," according to his senior press secretary Kim Eun-hye.

Yoon's criticism comes as the conflict between the ruling and main opposition parties appears to be at an all-time high. Yoon has never held official talks with main opposition leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung -- his rival in the presidential election -- since his inauguration in May 2022.

Bills proposed by the government and the ruling People Power Party often ran into partisan resistance, including in areas other than the Yoon administration's three pillars of domestic reform -- labor, education and pension.

A conservative-backed bill proposed to endow the government with greater executive power to order labor unions to disclose their records of financial transactions was opposed by the Democratic Party. In an apparent show of defiance, Democratic Party Rep. Lee Su-jin proposed a bill to prohibit the government from ordering labor unions to disclose their accounting books.

Partisan clashes have also surfaced over the controversial Yellow Envelope Act. The bill proposed by the left-wing opposition bloc is aimed at discouraging company management from seeking damage from labor union members who have protested and as a result caused financial loss for the company.

On the educational front, bills proposed by the conservative bloc have stalled in parliament. These include proposals to ensure education superintendents are no longer elected during elections, establish autonomous special education zones under local governments and streamline the process of shutting down financially pinched universities.

Another conservative bill to limit the fiscal budget deficit to be no greater than 3 percent of the gross domestic product is also facing opposition from the Democratic Party. The party said it would green-light the bill on condition that the People Power Party agrees on a separate bill proposed by the opposition to offer social enterprises greater financial support.

Since Yoon's inauguration on May 10, 2022, 36 out of 144 bills proposed by the government have passed through parliament.

The Democratic Party's legislative powers have allowed it to go ahead with a motion to impeach Interior Minister Lee Sang-min and pass a law to ease nursing regulations. A Grains Act revision, which had been passed at the National Assembly, was vetoed by Yoon in April, the first presidential veto in seven years. The revision bill was shot down after it went back to the National Assembly for a second vote.

Yoon's campaign pledge to incorporate the Gender Ministry into Welfare Ministry has also been put on hold.