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Moon must change his course

Nov 30,2018
President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating dipped below 50 percent for the first time since he took office in May of last year. According to a recent Realmeter survey, 48.8 percent viewed him positively while 49.0 percent viewed him negatively. Another survey by R&Search showed similar results: 49 percent saw him positively while 45.8 percent viewed him negatively. He received 41.4 percent of the votes in the last presidential election. At his peak, over 80 percent of the people supported him.

Moon does not have to worry about his approval too much, but he cannot ignore the alarming downward trend that has continued for consecutive months: the decline cuts across age, region and ideology.

One of the biggest reasons for the dramatic fall is the public’s growing concern about the economy and security. Even when the economy is headed for a crisis due to the rapid hikes in the minimum wage, he dismisses it. Despite Moon’s reshuffle of his economic aides in the Blue House, he adheres to his untested “income-led growth” policy, which led to the worst-ever unemployment and polarization of wealth. Those in their 20s — a core base for Moon — are struggling to find jobs despite the president’s promises.

Another reason for the precipitous fall in his approval rating is his North Korea policy, which is mostly relying on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s good will. Seven months have passed since his historic summit with Kim in Panmunjom, but North Korea is still developing nuclear weapons. Whenever he embarks on an overseas trip, Moon pleads for support to ease international sanctions on the rogue state. The suspension of U.S. strategic bomber flights over the Korean Peninsula to help diplomatic efforts on the denuclearization of North Korea and a rash withdrawal of our forces from the demilitarized zone following an inter-Korean military agreement also helped deepen public concerns about his impatience.

If the economy and security — the two axes of government — shake, public sentiment will also shake. If the president wobbles, the Blue House sways. The arrests of Moon’s aide and bodyguard for drunk driving and the ongoing conflict between the Blue House and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung all represent a critical lack of discipline at the top.

Moon must face up to reality and rebuild his leadership to tackle the plethora of economic and security challenges facing the nation. We urge him to focus on bringing about tangible results in the two fronts. Above all, he must stop relying on revolving-door appointments for his administration and respect the opposition parties: if he can demonstrate bipartisanship, his approval rating can rebound.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 30, Page 34