Moon says he feels “weight of responsibility” of election results in Blue House statement

Posted on : 2020-04-17 17:41 KST Modified on : 2020-04-17 17:46 KST
S. Korean president thanks public for election day without major incidents
Blue House Spokesperson Kang Min-seok announces the Blue House’s official stance on the Apr. 15 election the following day. (Yonhap news)
Blue House Spokesperson Kang Min-seok announces the Blue House’s official stance on the Apr. 15 election the following day. (Yonhap news)

After the ruling party won a landslide victory in South Korea’s parliamentary elections on Apr. 16, President Moon Jae-in said he feels “an immense sense of responsibility, rather than joy.” Officials in the Blue House said they feel “the weight of responsibility,” as well as a fair dose of fear.

Moon expressed his feelings in a statement released on Thursday by Blue House Spokesperson Kang Min-seok. “What the people showed us through the election was their desperation. That desperation has strengthened the government in its own desperate effort to overcome this national crisis. The government will take on this heavy responsibility,” Moon said.

The ruling Democratic Party, along with its proportional affiliate the Together Citizens’ Party, won 180 seats in the election.

“Rather than letting this go to our heads, we will listen with even more humility to the voice of the people. Even though we face an unprecedented national crisis [because of COVID-19], we will take daring action, with trust in the people, and with confidence that we will overcome. I’m grateful that voters have lent the government their support in overcoming this crisis,” Moon said.

Moon added that “the people have made their true feelings known, feelings that had been drowned out in all the shouting.” He seems to have been referring indirectly to the conservatives’ claim that the government had failed in its response to the outbreak and in offensive remarks made by several opposition party candidates.

“The statement conveyed [the president’s] intention to mobilize all resources for overcoming the national crisis, with a grave sense of responsibility,” a senior official at the Blue House said.

Moon also thanked citizens for their cooperation in holding the general elections without incident despite the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. “We’ve wowed the world once more with this parliamentary election. Thanks to the citizens’ full cooperation and participation, we’ve become the only major country in the world to carry out a national election amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Moon said.

Forty countries around the world, including France and the UK, have delayed elections in connection with COVID-19. “Our citizens took part in the voting in an orderly fashion, while abiding by social distancing and other disease control rules. Even people under self-quarantine were able to take part, resulting in a miraculous voter turnout,” Moon said.

Election results a call for the government to take swift action

The Blue House has been carefully calibrating its messaging since the election. “Regardless of who won in the election, this isn’t the time to start making congratulations. I think that voters have given us the grave responsibility of responding effectively to the employment tsunami that the coronavirus is about to bring,” said a senior official in the presidential office.

Another official spoke with caution. “We have to keep our focus on fighting the disease and saving the economy; we can’t afford to think about anything else.”

At the same time, some observers think the government will now find itself under the microscope, with nowhere to hide. “I think the public will expect the Blue House to take full responsibility from now on. That responsibility includes wrapping up the battle against COVID-19 and enabling an economic recovery. By clearing away the power differential between the National Assembly and the Blue House, the public has basically told the government to take responsibility through swift and efficient action,” one official said.

Quite a few Blue House officials even found the ruling party’s unexpected sweeping victory a little scary. “People might expect we’d be excited to gain a majority, but that’s definitely not the case. If anything, the prevailing mood here is one of calm fear. It’s clear that voters are in a fierce mood, which makes it pretty pointless to obsess about winners and losers,” one official said.

By Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter

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