Moon reshuffles economy team but likely to stick with policies

Naming of successors from within govt means no change in policies seen as hurting growth

SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae-in has replaced his two top economic policymakers with current members of the government, his office announced yesterday, saying the changes were made to strengthen efforts to achieve a more equitable economy.

Mr Moon has replaced chief presidential policy aide Jang Ha-sung and finance minister Kim Dongyeon, the two most senior policymakers in charge of running Asia's fourth-largest economy, the presidential office announced.

Presidential social policy aide Kim Soo-hyun will succeed Mr Jang and veteran bureaucrat Hong Namki, currently head of the government policy coordination office, will take over the finance ministry, the presidential office said.

'Today's appointments were intended to more strongly promote efforts to build an inclusive nation in which everyone gets better off together,'' Mr Moon's chief spokesman Yoon Young-chan told a televised news conference.

The outgoing finance minister, who had served since June last year, had repeatedly clashed with Mr Jang by calling for adjustment of Mr Moon's income-led growth strategy.

Critics said Mr Moon's signature policies, notably big minimum wage increases and a shorter work week, had backfired, with lower-income earners - the intended beneficiaries - feeling the most pain as employers cut back hiring.

It was a bigger reshuffle than expected, but the appointment of their successors from within the government meant Mr Moon would pursue existing economic policies, which economists have said were hurting growth.

 
 

Markets gave a lukewarm reaction to what turned out to be a cosmetic and largely political event, with the country's stocks and currency both weighed down as a hawkish United States central bank deterred investors from holding riskier assets.

The incoming chief presidential policy aide has been behind harsh measures aimed at curbing housing prices, which analysts have said were against market principles.


The reshuffle of the top economic team involves (from left) Mr Kim Dong-yeon, Mr Hong Nam-ki, Mr Jang Ha-sung and Mr Kim Soo-hyun. The presidential office says the move is to strengthen efforts to achieve a more equitable economy.

The incoming finance minister has served in various government departments such as the finance ministry and the presidential office.

A Gallup Korea poll published yesterday showed approval ratings for Mr Moon had fallen for four weeks running to 54 per cent, way down from a high of 84 per cent right after he took office in May last year following his predecessor's impeachment and removal.

South Korea's minimum wages are set to be raised by nearly 30 per cent over two years, and the work week has been cut by almost a quarter for big companies, but initial outcomes have been a plunge in employment rates and lower incomes.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'Moon reshuffles economy team but likely to stick with policies'. Print Edition | Subscribe