Vaccine, real estate problems to dominate Moon's final year in office - Korea Times
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Vaccine, real estate problems to dominate Moon's final year in office

President Moon Jae-in / Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in / Yonhap

Marking his fourth inauguration anniversary next week, President Moon Jae-in is still wrestling with several challenges, especially COVID-19 vaccinations, a stalemate in his Korea "peace process" and continued hikes in home price in major cities.

Moon has just a year in office to handle the problems, the results of which will affect the chances of his Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) winning the next presidential election.

The President is grappling with the coronavirus vaccine issue, as his government aims to achieve herd immunity by November, while hundreds of newly confirmed coronavirus cases are reported here daily. Many people have doubts about the smooth introduction of vaccines ― they are also concerned about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Pfizer-made ones, the only other brand currently available here, reportedly in short supply.

Moon gained huge public support for the government's early-phase coronavirus response, which was praised by the international community. South Korea, however, is now dubbed a "laggard" on vaccines.

He expressed confidence to the public that the country's vaccination program was on the right track.

"The introduction of vaccines and inoculations are going smoothly beyond the original plan," he stated at the outset of a special Cheong Wa Dae session on the coronavirus held Monday.

As many as 13 million people will get vaccine shots before the end of June, 1 million more than originally planned, he added.

The president is also emboldened by reports that the country's gross domestic product expanded 1.8 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to 2020.

But the faster-than-expected growth, much led by exports, belies a widening asset gap and deepening troubles for people's livelihoods, critics point out. Those in their 20s are struggling to land decent jobs.

In addition, the left-leaning Moon administration has failed to stabilize the property market despite a series of strong policy packages.

Voters are highly sensitive to the matter, along with the coronavirus problem, as demonstrated in the ruling party's crushing defeat in the April 7 Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections.

In a Gallup Korea survey from April 27 to 29, the President's approval rating dropped below 30 percent for the first time since he took office, May 10, 2017, but it did rebound to 34 percent in this week's poll.

Moon is pinning his hopes on a new lineup of officials to be in charge of the thorny real estate issue, as he is replacing the prime minister and the land minister.

The ruling party also plans to set up its own special committee of experts on relevant policy measures, under the initiative of its new leader Song Young-gil.

In the coming weeks, Moon is expected to focus efforts on reactivating his Korea "peace process" that has been stalled for more than two years since the no-deal summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.

Trump is gone and his successor, Joe Biden, is resetting Washington's policy on Pyongyang to take a "calibrated practical approach" for complete denuclearization.

Moon is scheduled to hold his first in-person summit with Biden at the White House, May 21, and participate in the Group of Seven summit in Britain in June.

Once regarded as playing a mediating, or facilitating, role between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, now, Moon has little room to maneuver amid chilly inter-Korean relations.

North Korea even announced a decision to skip the Tokyo Olympics, citing worries about the coronavirus, a setback to Moon's push for a breakthrough similar to that achieved during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. (Yonhap)

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