By Lee Hana
Photos = Cheong Wa Dae
President Moon Jae-in met with a group of people after work at a restaurant in Gwanghwamun on July 26 to lend an ear to their day-to-day concerns.
The group hailed from all walks of life, and included job-seeking recent grads, small business owners, restaurateurs, mothers hoping to re-enter the job market and low-income workers.
“During my presidential campaign, I promised to meet with regular people after hours and listen to their stories over a few drinks. This is the kind of gathering I had in mind,” said the president.
“These days, there are several policies that have been on people’s minds, such as the legislation about the minimum wage, the number of working hours, private businesses and employment. I came here today to hear your thoughts on these issues. I didn’t come here with any particular message. I’m here purely to listen, so please feel free to speak your mind.”
Lee Jong Hwan, who runs a restaurant, told the president about the pressure that the minimum wage has placed on self-employed workers who struggle to make ends meet.
Lee Chan Hee, a job-seeking fourth-year college student, spoke about the difficulties of acquiring qualifications while covering his monthly expenses. Lee said that even with some support from the government, it was still very tough to make it in the current job market.
An Hyeon Ju, a speech therapist who gave birth to twins a few years ago and who has been struggling to re-enter the job market, told the president that she hopes the government would increase benefits for stay-at-home, child-rearing parents. She also highlighted the need to improve working conditions for childcare professionals.
After chatting with people from across various industries and age groups, President Moon stressed that structural reforms usually face setbacks in the initial stages, but that once these changes are fully adopted, they are beneficial for all tiers of society.
The president then thanked the group for supporting the government during a period of reform, for understanding any setbacks, and for providing helpful suggestions.
Furthermore, the president said that his administration would continue to develop support systems for low-income groups and safety nets for self-employed business owners, and that he would actively discuss these issues with members of the National Assembly.