The Korea Herald


Record high popularity boosts Moon, feeds ire of opposition

By Korea Herald

Published : June 16, 2017 - 16:19

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High-flying popularity appears to be President Moon Jae-in’s biggest political asset in dealing with his stalwart foes in the parliament amid the ongoing conflict over his Cabinet picks. 

Moon Jae-in (Yonhap) Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

A new survey, released by Gallup Korea on Friday, showed an unprecedented level of public support for Moon, who took office on May 10, reinforcing the view that the liberal leader, despite facing more foes than allies in the National Assembly, may be the most popular democratically elected president in South Korean history.

The weekly Gallup poll put Moon’s approval rating at 83 percent, the highest recorded by any of his predecessors.

The rating by Gallup was, however, lower than some other surveys. In a Korea Society Research Institute survey, Moon garnered nearly 90 percent of support.

Moon’s approval rating has also recorded a near perfect score in the Jeolla provinces and Gwangju, with 99 percent of respondents saying that they consider Moon to be doing a good job, the Gallup survey showed. The nation’s southwest is the traditional stronghold of the liberals. On the other hand, Moon’s approval rating in the conservative Gyeongsang provinces hovers at just under 80 percent.

Moon also appears to be reaching across age groups. The Gallup polls put Moon’s ratings at above 90 percent for age groups that include people aged 19 to 49, while the figures for those in their 50s and 60s came to 73 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

Moon even appears to be appealing to the supporters of opposition parties.

Supporters of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea are giving Moon overwhelming support at 97 percent, while the corresponding figures among supporters of the Bareun Party and the People’s Party fell just short of 80 percent.

While the figure for Liberty Korea Party supporters came to a comparatively meagre 37 percent, the figure is significantly higher than the ratings liberal voters gave to former President Park Geun-hye a month into her term in 2013. A poll conducted in March 2013 showed that only 29 percent of Democratic Party supporters approved of Park.

The public’s support appears to be feeding Moon’s confidence and drive in spite of increasing resistance from opposition parties.

Although he has reiterated his intentions to work with the parliament time and again, Moon is currently locked in a conflict with the opposition bloc over his personnel choices and an extra budget plan.

On Tuesday, Moon appointed Kim Sang-jo as the head of the Fair Trade Commission, and has since hinted that he will name Kang Kyung-wha as the foreign minister despite protests from opposition parties.

While such boldness -- apparently based on public support -- has been taken by some as a breath of fresh air and hints of reforms to come, opposition parties warn against “public opinion politics” and of intensifying resistance.

“There is no reason for the National Assembly to exist, if (Moon) will respect the people’s judgement more than the opinion of the parliament,” the interim leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Rep. Chung Woo-taik, said Friday, referring to Moon’s recent comment that he will “only look to the people.”

“This goes against representative democracy which is the foundation of the Constitution.”

Criticism from the more moderate conservative Bareun Party and the center-left People’s Party is also becoming increasingly vehement.

“The president appears to be wrapped up in the public’s support,” Bareun Party Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said, adding that the president is becoming self-righteous only a month after taking office. Joo has also likened Moon to dictators of the past.

“(Saying that an action is) the will of the people, and (highlighting the) emergency situation are words used arbitrarily by dictators and those who wield power,” Joo said.

By Choi He-suk (