South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating dived below 50 percent for the first time since taking office in May 2017 amid growing doubts over his economic policies.
According to a weekly survey released by Gallup Korea on Friday, President Moon’s approval rating came to 49 percent for the first week of September, down 4 percentage points from a week earlier. Moon’s disapproval rating gained 4 percentage points to 42 percent during the same period, which is the highest since his inauguration. The results are based on Gallup’s interviews of 1,000 adults between Tuesday and Thursday.
“We are taking the situation gravely,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a briefing on Friday. “We will be more attentive to what people say.”
Respondents highly rated President Moon’s leadership in improving inter-Korean relations (16 percent) and his efforts to expand the country’s welfare system (9 percent). But respondents expressed disappointment over the president’s inability to handle the country economic issues (41 percent), minimum wage hike (7 percent), housing policy (6 percent), and employment situations (6 percent).
President Moon’s approval rating hovered 80 percent right after the April 27 inter-Korean summit, the June 12 North Korea-U.S. summit and the landslide victory of the party supporting Moon during the June 13 local elections. The rating, however, went downwards since and fell to below 60 percent in August and 50 percent in September amid growing concerns over the country’s economy following the release of a number of disappointing economic data.
In particular, jobs in Korea were added a mere 5,000 in July against a year-ago period, worst since January 2010 when the job market remained weak in the aftermath of 2008-20009 global financial crisis.
Such poor job market data comes after the Korean government had taken aggressive measures to improve income to bolster the economy, raising doubts over the current administration’s income-led growth policy. The government hiked the country’s compulsory minimum wage by 16.4 percent to 7,530 won an hour this year and is set to raise it by another 10.9 percent next year to 8,350 won. It also cut the maximum weekly hours from 68 to 52 for better work-life balance, further weighing on the business operation.
The country’s housing prices have also renewed their upward trend despite a slew of the government’s measures to curb speculative house purchases blamed for a surge in housing price.
Gallup Korea said the significant fall in the approval rating comes as respondents were dissatisfied with President Moon’s inability to tackle economic and public welfare problems and were concerned with minimum wage hike and employment issues. Doubts are growing on his income-led growth strategy and property market stabilization strategies, it added.
By Hong Sung-yong and Lee Eun-joo
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]