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[Editorial] Failure to connect

[Editorial] Failure to connect

Park’s approval rating falls below 50 percent

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Published : 2013-12-22 19:32
Updated : 2013-12-22 20:49

It should be disconcerting to President Park Geun-hye and those close to her that her approval rating has fallen below the 50 percent mark for the first time since her inauguration in February. Even more worrying should be the sharp drop in the rating.

According to an opinion poll conducted by Gallup Korea from Monday through Thursday, those who approved of her performance accounted for 48 percent of the respondents, down 6 percentage points from the previous week. The big drop should have come as a surprise to her staunch conservative supporters as well as the president herself.

The disapproval rating went up by the same margin ― from 35 percent to 41 percent. At the top of the list of what the critics cited as her wrongdoings was her failure to connect to people. It was followed by her improper handling of a conflict over the issue of privatizing government-owned corporations, her failure to make good on some of her election promises and the self-righteousness of her and her supporters.

These findings are a great setback for the president, who could deflect criticisms hurled against her while her approval ratings continued to remain high. They are undoubtedly putting pressure on her to address the nation on key issues of public concern, and go out to meet her critics and address their grievances.

In the past, the main opposition Democratic Party has accused Park of failing to connect on key issues of public concern. Given the findings of the Gallup Korea poll, few of her top aides could now say, as they did previously, that the opposition party’s criticism was entirely misplaced.

Moreover, she has held no formal news conference during the past nine months of her governance. All she does is release her remarks, which were made at a Cabinet meeting or at a conference with her senior secretaries, to the news media. Her public relations aide apparently had this way of communicating with the public in mind when he claimed she was making a “principled” approach to the issue.

On Wednesday, two days before Gallup Korea released its findings, Lee Jung-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public relations, came to her rescue only to bolster the public perception that Park was not trying hard to connect. He said her critics were misled when they called her principled approach a failure to connect. He appeared to mistakenly believe they were demanding that she yield to the whims of various people.

He made an irrecoverable gaffe when he said that it would be an “honorable failure to connect” if her principled approach was a failure to connect. He had no one else but himself to blame when he was denounced for the ill-considered remark by not just the ruling Saenuri Party but also the opposition party.

There is no such thing as an honorable failure to connect. Park and her aides will have to make an earnest effort to win the hearts and minds of people if her policies are to be implemented without a hitch. Such efforts may not keep her approval rating from falling. But they will certainly slow the slide.

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