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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 21)

Politics 09:48 September 21, 2019

Moon's waning popularity
: 'Cho Kuk factor' presents dilemma for President

President Moon Jae-in's approval rating has plunged to its lowest level since his inauguration in May 2017 in two different surveys.

Moon's popularity is falling remarkably after he appointed his former aide Cho Kuk as justice minister on Sept. 9 despite strong protests the opposition and heightened anti-Cho sentiment among the people in the wake of massive media reports about his family's possible involvement in corruption.

The liberal President ran the risk of losing public support by going ahead with Cho's appointment because he had strong confidence in the law professor, who had spearheaded reforming the prosecution, one of Moon's major priorities, as a senior civil affairs secretary from May 2017 to July this year. That was surely a risky political gamble.
And the latest data show Cho's appointment has damaged public trust in Moon.

According to a Gallup Korea poll released Friday, Moon's approval rating dipped to 40 percent, 3 percentage points lower than the firm's previous survey conducted two weeks earlier and the lowest since he took office.

The latest poll was conducted on 1,000 voters nationwide via telephone from Sept. 17 to 19 with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

What's notable in the latest survey was that 61 percent of those who don't support any political party, who account for about 30 percent of all voters, believe that Moon is performing poorly as head of state. Only 22 percent of this group said he was is doing a good job.

The results could be all the more shocking for liberals because Gallup Korea has long been criticized by conservatives for using biased methodology in its polls to make liberal parties look more popular than they actually are. The largest conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) even once sent a protest letter to the U.S. consulting firm Gallup even though Gallup Korea is not a subsidiary of Gallup, and has no business ties with the U.S. firm.

There were similar results in a different poll on Moon's job performance. A Realmeter survey, released Thursday, showed his approval rating fell 3.4 percentage points from a week earlier to 43.8 percent, which is also the lowest point in its surveys since the President's inauguration.

According to the Gallup Korea poll, public support for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) dipped by 2 percentage points to 38 percent, while that for the LKP rose by 1 percentage point to 24 percent. The Realmeter poll said the LKP's approval rating was 32.1 percent, while that of the DPK was 38.2 percent.

The results of the surveys may have different connotations for the different political parties. But what's sure is that an increasing number of people who supported Moon are turning their backs on him as the scandal involving Cho's family escalates.

In particular, a sense of frustration is evident among young people, who have traditionally been a strong support base for liberals, because of the academic fraud allegations surrounding Cho's wife and daughter. Students from the country's three most prestigious universities ― Seoul National, Korea and Yonsei ― held candlelit rallies on their respective campuses Thursday night to demand Cho's immediate resignation. Notably, they were organized by ordinary students, not by student councils.

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