Posted : 2017-05-22 16:52
Updated : 2017-05-23 09:22

Moon's day-off sends out message: Work Less, Play More

President Moon Jae-in poses for a picture with citizens near his private residence in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, Sunday. / Yonhap

By Choi Ha-young

President Moon Jae-in has made yet another unusual move — taking a day off Monday and returning to his private residence outside the city, only 13 days after his inauguration.

In the past, Cheong Wa Dae had rarely announced the President's holiday schedule, particularly on weekdays. With Moon's predecessor, Park Geun-hye, the presidential office even refused to release her summer vacation spots for security reasons.

"The President has 21 paid holidays annually. Moon used one of them Monday," presidential spokesman Park Su-hyun said.

This unprecedented announcement is in line with Moon's pledge during his presidential campaign. Earlier, he pledged to make it mandatory for workers to use their 15 days of annual paid holidays. In this nation which is infamous for having the world's second-longest working hours and for its conservative corporate culture, ordinary workers on average get to use only six of their 15 days.

"With enough vacation use, Korea could experience a 20 trillion won ($18 billion) ripple effect and boost its national competitiveness," then-candidate Moon posted on Facebook, May 4. "I will also increase the number of annual holidays to 20 and improve the labor system to enable people to enjoy at least a two-week summer vacation."

Moon headed to his private home in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, Sunday, after appointing key Cabinet members. He will return to Cheong Wa Dae after attending a memorial ceremony for his longtime friend, President Roh Moo-hyun, Tuesday.

The President has had a hectic time since last winter when political turmoil swept the nation which moved up the presidential election, following his predecessor's impeachment.

As a part of efforts to ensure casual communication with people unlike the ex-president, he went hiking with journalists on his first weekend after taking office May 10. Without a transition team, Moon nominated the prime minister and key ministers who will face National Assembly hearings beginning this week. After returning to Seoul, he is scheduled to name vice ministers.

Even on Sunday in Yangsan, he was constantly briefed by security advisers following Pyongyang's missile test after convening a National Security Council meeting.

Kim Seong-eun, a 27-year-old office worker, welcomed Moon's decision, hoping it will bring a change to the rigid corporate culture. "I am planning to go on annual holiday on June 26, a Monday, to go scuba diving. But it makes me nervous to apply for it. I hope to take a day off on a Monday like the President," Kim told The Korea Times.

Moon's move is in sharp contrast to ex-President Park.

According to a report in the local daily Kyunghyang Shinmun last Dec. 16, she worked only four days per week on average. She made no public appearances on 129 days in 2014, her second year as president, without any prior notice.

"I am surprised to see such a reasonable announcement from a public servant is reported as a news story. That's because of the abnormal situation rampant (under the former president). Finally, I feel some breathing space," said another office worker, Hwang Se-min, 25.

Even on April 16, 2014, when the Sewol ferry sank killing 304 people, Park drew fire for keeping silent for seven hours on that day. She claimed she was working at her residence in Cheong Wa Dae, receiving written and phone reports.

Reportedly, on her days without any scheduled duties, she usually stayed in her private quarters instead of working in her office. Her "secretive" life as president, even including illicit beauty treatments, triggered enormous public anger last year.

Park's record of 129 days of absence is often compared to ex-President Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013), a former businessman well known as an "early bird." According to the news report, he took 64 days of rest in 2009, which means he worked six days per week.

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