New South Korean president to target public sector jobs boost

11 May 17

A pledge to create 810,000 new public sector jobs in South Korea could be realised following the election of new president Moon Jae-in this week.


South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Shutterstock 635385698

South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Shutterstock


The liberal politician won 41% of the vote, which took place on Tuesday, to conservative candidate Hong Joon-pyo’s 24% and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo’s 21%.

Moon’s decisive victory, prompted by the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye following a massive corruption scandal, has ended almost ten years of conservative rule and marks a new direction on the country’s relationship with North Korea as well as its politics and economics.

After being sworn-in yesterday, Moon pledged to unify a country bruised by the high-profile revelations surrounding former president Park.

Amid record-high youth unemployment, he added: “Above all, I will take care of job creation.”

That starts with a pledge to create 810,000 new public sector jobs over the next five years, including an increased number of fire fighters, police, teachers and social workers.

He plans to achieve this partly through immediately pushing for a $9bn supplementary budget focused on jobs in both the public and private sectors, and partly through reducing current public sector working hours and ensuring public workers use all of their vacation time.

As well as the additional fiscal stimulus, Moon argues his plans will help fetch an average of 500,000 new jobs in the private sector each year.

He has also pledged to increase the minimum wage, cut working hours and deliver more generous welfare payments, including for pensioners and new mothers.

According to the country’s official statistics office, Statistics Korea, unemployment stood at 4.2% in April, but its youth unemployment rate is more than double that.

The family-run conglomerates, known as chaebols, that dominate Asia’s fourth largest economy and used to provide much of the nation’s jobs have in recent years become more active overseas.

Moon has vowed to overhaul the chaebols, ensuring they are more transparent, democratic and accountable, as well as to reform presidential powers.

This will include relocating the presidential office from a complex known as the Blue House to a central government compound and an effort to improve its communication with the public.

His most immediate task will be trying to build steam in the country’s flagging economy, which is predicted to grow by 2.6% this year after decades of rapid growth.

As well as an ageing population, the country faces the threat of protectionism from the US and a dispute with its biggest trading partner, China.

Moon is also targeting stronger ties, both diplomatic and economic, with both of these key allies, alongside Japan and Russia, as well as a more conciliatory approach to North Korea in a bid to ease tensions and focus on denuclearisation of the peninsula.

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