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Declining popularity

Sept 19,2017
President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating has been drooping for the last four weeks, dipping below 70 percent from the above 80 percent level that he had enjoyed during earlier months. According to pollster Realmeter, the president’s approval rating fell to 66.8 percent in a survey between Nov. 11 and 13 and 69 percent between Nov. 12 and 14.

The public approval of the president is still exceptionally high compared with his predecessors. But the waning popularity could become a burden for a president who was able to brave the opposition-led legislative and push ahead his agenda backed by huge public support.

Moon is losing favor with the populace due to his unilateral ways. His appointments overly centered on left-leaning figures and his confidants, causing controversies and a rift with the opposition. He did not live up to his campaign promise to be fair and broad in his recruitment. Because of his indiscretion, seven candidates of ministerial posts had to withdraw themselves from the nominations. The cabinet is incomplete as a result, although Moon has been in office for four months.

Moon beat former president Park Geun-hye, whose poor first choices ended in the reversal of six candidates. His radical push to phase out nuclear reactor power, convert the irregular workforce to salaried status and hike the minimum wage also painted him as narrow-sighted and rash.

The worsening North Korean nuclear crisis and the indecisive response from his administration have also weakened public confidence in the president. North Korea tested missiles eight times and a nuclear device believed to be a hydrogen bomb after Moon took office. Moon vowed “maximum pressure,” but angered Washington — and Pyongyang — by offering $8 million in humanitarian aid while the two states were imposing unilateral sanctions on top of UN actions to rein in the North. He also has failed to find a breakthrough in diplomacy with Beijing and Moscow.

There is no need for the president to be overly concerned about his approval rating. But he must not take the fact that his approach is losing public favor lightly. He must show the capacity to listen to the opposition and moderate his pace in tune with the broad wishes of the public.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 18, Page 34