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Moon’s rate of approval dips to 61.1% over jobs

July 31,2018
President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating dropped 1.8 percent from a week before to 61.1 percent, nearing his lowest rating of 60.8 percent in the fourth week of January, according to a poll conducted last week.

In a Realmeter poll of 2,504 adults nationwide conducted from Monday through Friday last week, Moon’s approval rating dipped 1.8 percent to 61.1 percent, his sixth weekly decline in a row amidst economic indicators that continue to deteriorate.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

This marks a fairly sharp decline from his approval rating four weeks ago, which was 71.5 percent.

The low in January was the result of his government’s hardline stance on cryptocurrency markets to stem their dramatic rise, especially bitcoin, which wasn’t popular with some segments of the public.

Since then, Moon’s rating gradually rebounded on the backs of growing expectations for improved inter-Korean relations and fast developments in diplomacy including two inter-Korean summits and a North Korea-U.S. summit over a span of three months.

Currently, Moon’s administration is catching heat for its economic policies, especially minimum wage increases and a 52-hour maximum work week.

Following the government’s decision reached earlier this month to raise the hourly minimum wage for next year by 10.9 percent to 8,350 won from this year’s 7,530 won, owners of small businesses, especially those who run convenience stores, have cried foul, arguing they won’t be able to afford their workers.

Disappointing job figures have added to concerns about the direction of the economy. Recent government data showed that the Korean economy added 72,000 new jobs in May, the lowest increase in eight years and four months.

In the same month, Korea’s youth unemployment rate rose by 1.3 percentage points to 10.5 percent, the worst figure for May ever recorded.

Many analysts tie those disappointing figures to the hiking of the minimum wage.

It will be a red flag if Moon’s approval rating falls into 50-percent territory, which has never happened since he took office in May 2017. Such a decline could weaken the momentum of his government’s so-called income-led growth economic policy, for which a higher minimum wage is a major pillar.

In the same poll, the minor progressive Justice Party received 12.5 percent approvals, up 2.1 percent from the previous week and its highest approval rating ever.

The party appears to have benefitted from the death of Roh Hoe-chan, an iconic liberal lawmaker who committed suicide last Monday amidst bribery allegations.

Roh’s death has united party supporters in commemoration of the late lawmaker, according to the pollster’s analysis.

The ruling Democratic Party garnered a 44 percent approval rating, far ahead of the major opposition Liberty Korea Party’s 18.6 percent.

The Justice Party came in third with 12.5 percent followed by the centrist Bareunmirae’s 7 percent. The Party for Democracy and Peace received a meager 2.9 percent.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]