[Editorial] Korean New Deal needs to include Green New Deal that includes vision for environment

Posted on : 2020-05-15 15:37 KST Modified on : 2020-05-15 15:37 KST
South Korean President Moon Jae-in gives a speech at the Blue House on May 10, the third anniversary of him taking office. (Blue House photo pool)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in gives a speech at the Blue House on May 10, the third anniversary of him taking office. (Blue House photo pool)

President Moon Jae-in has named a “Green New Deal” as a major state policy to prepare for the “post-coronavirus” era. It’s a concept that involves encouraging investment in responding to climate change and other eco-related areas as a way of promoting employment and economic vitality. This seems to be the right direction to be headed in at a time when the virus’s outbreak has resulted in a growing sense of crisis. The idea of killing two birds with one stone by supporting both the environment and the economy is also in line with global trends.

Around this weekend or early next week, Moon expects to receive joint written reports on the Green New Deal from the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE), the Ministry of SMEs and Startups (MSS), and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). This follows upon the directions he issued during a closed-door Cabinet meeting on May 12. Blue House Spokesperson Kang Min-seok reported him as having told advisors that the Green New Deal “can create a lot of new jobs by itself.” Kang also said Moon’s aim is to pursue the Green New Deal as a way of preparing the country for the post-coronavirus era.

The “Korean New Deal” concept unveiled by the administration on May 7 has faced criticism for lacking a “Green New Deal” vision. According to this analysis, the focus of the three projects and 10 “focused tasks” that made up the basic framework of the Korean New Deal was placed on digital and untact areas, without reflecting contemporary issues regarding the environment and ecosystems. This echoes the unfortunate situation South Korea faces as its blasted as a “climate change offender” for lagging on eco-related issues such as moving away from coal and reducing greenhouse gases, despite having boosted its reputation with its virus prevention response.

In Europe, international environmental regulations have grown more stringent by the day, to the point where attempts are being made to compel the use of 100% renewable energy in the production of electric vehicles. This shows that a Green New Deal is essential not merely as a response to environmental issues, but also to sustain industry competitiveness. Green New Deal areas such as renewable energy, future vehicles, and eco-friendly construction are also directly linked to job creation and economic growth.

The concept and direction of the Green New Deal plan remain unclear. We hope that the four ministries’ reports include substantive content. They cannot afford to follow in the footsteps of the Lee Myung-bak administration, which pitched “green growth” as its slogan but went a “green in name only” route of investment in engineering and construction projects like the Four Major Rivers Restoration. In that sense, it would be worth considering the linked pursuit of the Korean New Deal and Green New Deal plans. We should not forget that focusing too much on the digital and untact aspects could lead to clashing with values related to ecosystems and the environment and move us farther away from resolving issues of social inequality.

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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