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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 6)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:37 January 06, 2021

Lowest approval rating
Moon should focus on promoting national unity

President Moon Jae-in's approval rating has nosedived to an all-time low amid a set of policy failures and divisive politics. According to a Realmeter survey of 1,000 people conducted Friday and Saturday, only 34.1 percent of respondents supported Moon.

On the other hand, his disapproval rating hit a record high of 61.7 percent. Only 28.7 percent of the respondents said they supported the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), compared with 34.2 percent who backed the main opposition People Power Party (PPP).

Now, the President should figure out why his approval rating has reached its lowest point since his May 2017 inauguration. And he should accept the opinion poll as a warning to his presidency. The DPK also needs to ponder why more and more people have turned their backs on the governing party.

The falling support rates are attributable to policy failures to curb runaway housing prices and to improve the people's livelihoods amid the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. President Moon and DPK lawmakers may argue that they have done their best to stabilize the overheated property market and minimize the crippling economic fallout from COVID-19.

But the Moon administration has only demonstrated its inability to impose stability on the housing market, despite 24 sets of anti-speculative measures over the past three-and-a-half years. It has been lauded for its quick response to the pandemic. Yet it has made several mistakes by taking belated and expedient measures as the occasion has arisen. A recent case is an infection cluster that hit a densely populated prison in eastern Seoul where more than 1,000 inmates have so far been infected with COVID-19.

Besides, negative factors such as the slumping economy, mass layoffs and a higher jobless rate for young people have contributed to the sliding support rate. The widening gap between the rich and the poor is also cited as a reason. Yet the underlying cause seems to have derived from the arrogance and self-righteousness of the ruling elite. President Moon and his policymakers as well as DPK lawmakers have refused to listen to the different voices in our society since the ruling party gained a supermajority in the April 2020 general election. The party has railroaded many controversial bills in the face of strong objections from the PPP and other minority parties.

The prolonged conflict between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over prosecutorial reform and anti-corruption investigations has also apparently made moderates retract their support for Moon and the DPK. An increasing number of people, who were already fed up with political bickering and partisan struggles, were found to have switched their support to the conservative PPP.

Moon and ruling party lawmakers should feel a real sense of crisis before the upcoming April mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan ― the two largest cities in Korea. They must end their divisiveness in order to regain popular support. Or they may lose the elections as potential opposition candidates are ahead of their DPK rivals in opinion polls.

Most of all, the Moon administration and the governing party need to make strenuous efforts to promote national unity and social cohesion. They should reach out to the opposition to make a bipartisan effort to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and speed up economic recovery. It is time to end the confrontational old politics and usher in the new politics of cooperation.

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