Photo Credit: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

President Moon’s first substantial act in office is a healthcare plan “Mooncare” that attempts to fulfill his optimistic campaign promises.
On Aug. 8 during a visit to Seoul St. Mary Hospital, South Korean president Moon Jae-in announced his new healthcare plan. “This year,” Moon stated in his address, “we will start to build a country where, by 2022, every single Korean is free from the worry of medical bills and can be treated for any disease.”

Moon’s healthcare plan, which was quickly dubbed “Mooncare” by the public in a nod towards America’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aims to raise national health coverage of medical bills to 70 percent by 2022, from the 63.4 percent it is currently.

Under “Mooncare,” the government will invest 30.6 trillion won ($26.8 billion) until 2022 to reduce individual medical costs by 18 percent. The legislation will particularly benefit those who fall in the bottom 30 percent of the low-income bracket by creating a cap maximum payment of 1 million won ($889) per year for medical costs.

President Moon Jae-in, 64, is originally a human rights lawyer who has only been in politics for five years. Despite his novice status, Moon won the South Korean presidential election by a landslide in May of this year after the impeachment of his predecessor, former president Park Geun-hye.

Largely regarded as a “man of the people,” Moon has gained pop star status for his humble demeanor and his efforts to relate to average citizens. His campaign trail relied heavily on his promises to lessen the disparity between the rich and the poor and Moon has not disappointed his supporters in stepping into the “common man” trope set before him. This new healthcare plan is the first of perhaps many pieces of legislation from Moon’s administration that will attempt to fulfill the optimistic promises set up during his campaign.

However, this new development was not met without dissension. Like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the United States, “Mooncare” has sparked a fierce backlash. Opposing political parties have publicly questioned the viability of the new healthcare plan, criticizing Moon’s vague terms to secure sufficient financial resources and predicting unmanageable economic problems in later years.

In response, Moon dismissed rising financial concerns about the plan during a weekly meeting with his aides at the Blue House by stating that the funding plan was “thoroughly looked into in consultation with the finance ministry” and that financial stability was carefully mapped out.

As one of his first major acts as president, and as his first substantial step in fulfilling his campaign promises, “Mooncare” has the power set the tone for the rest of Moon’s time in office. The public, up until this point, has been largely supportive of its new president but whether Moon can rally enough support from opposition parties to ensure a smooth presidency is another question altogether.

At Seoul St. Mary Hospital, to applause and cheers from the crowd, Moon concluded his address by stating that he “hopes to create a nation whose government will feel pain when its citizens feel pain and laugh when its citizens laugh… [a government that will] decrease pain and increase hope.”


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Yeji-Jesse Lee

Yeji is covering the White House.

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