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Honeymoon no more

Jan 20,2018
President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating sank below 70 percent. In a recent poll by Korea Gallup, respondents who approved of Moon’s performance hit 67 percent, off 6 percentage points from last week. The disapproving responses gained 7 percentage points in the poll, which was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday on 1,004 adults across the country. The last time Moon’s approval rating slipped under 70 percent was in the fourth week of September amid concerns about the government’s security policy following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. Confidence dramatically fell among respondents in their 40s and under, which was the prime voting base for the liberal president. Moon’s approval rating retreated 9 percentage points for respondents in their 40s, 7 percentage points for those in their 30s, and 6 percentage points for those in their 20s.

The young are turning their backs on an administration they put in power because of flip-flopping on policy on the cryptocurrency trade, which has deeply affected the value of the tokens, and controversy over forcing the national female hockey team to make way for North Koreans to form a symbolic joint team. Dogged pursuit of past issues, probes into past conservative governments, and an insistence on hikes in the minimum wage despite negative repercussions have also soured public sentiment towards the government. The threat of cracking down on cryptocurrencies provoked a backlash from young people who are gambling on them after losing hope of getting good jobs. Social media turned negative about the administration. A head-on clash with a former conservative president also irked the conservative population. The policy to ban English classes in preschool institutions also disappointed young parents.

The president and administration need not overly mind every public opinion poll. But the Moon administration was born through a peaceful and ardent hope to rebuild the country to allow it to serve the people. The new government has shown that good intentions are not enough. Political support is multi-layered and complex. It is natural for a high approval rating to come down. The government must reexamine and redesign polices to bring them into synch with the public’s desires.

Without a government supported by the people, the country can lose direction. The government enjoyed high approval because of the comparatively disastrous performance of the former administration. The honeymoon is over. Moon’s administration is being tested purely on its performance.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 20, Page 26