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[News Focus] Real estate, education policies lower Moon’s approval ratings among housewives, students

SEJONG -- President Moon Jae-in started the latter part of his term this month amid discontent with his administration’s policies on real estate and education.

Alongside sagging economic indices, a number of other factors have led citizens to express frustration or anger with Moon. Among these are skyrocketing apartment prices in Seoul and alleged irregularities by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family.

Though President Moon’s approval ratings remain above the psychologically significant 40 percent mark, disappointment over those two matters is especially apparent among college students and housewives.

People in their 20s were responsible in large part for Moon’s 2017 election win. Many in this age group were furious over the privileges enjoyed by Chung Yu-ra, the daughter of former President Park Geun-hye’s close confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae (left) talks with Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee during an official ceremony earlier this year. (Yonhap)
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae (left) talks with Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee during an official ceremony earlier this year. (Yonhap)

Yet a poll by Gallup Korea conducted Nov. 19-21 and made public Nov. 23 found that only 33 percent of college students supported Moon, while 58 percent said the president was “not doing well.”

One political commentator said people in their 20s prioritize justice, more so than people of older generations. “Many of the young age group are assumed to have withdrawn their support for President Moon in the wake of the Cho Kuk scandal,” the commentator said.

Former Justice Minister Cho’s daughter is suspected of gaining admission to a university in Seoul and a medical school in Busan by means of shady dealings, although Cho has repeatedly dismissed those claims.

People in their 20s are comparing Cho’s daughter and Choi Soon-sil’s daughter, saying both cases show that society gives unfair advantages to young people from powerful families.

The Gallup Korea survey also showed that Moon’s approval rating among homemakers stood at 37 percent, while 53 percent in this group expressed disapproval.

In South Korea, women in their 50s are particularly concerned about apartment prices and state education policies.

Since Moon’s term started in May 2017, only apartments in Seoul and a few other cities have shot up in value, often as much as 50 to 100 percent. A large proportion of housewives across the country may have felt disadvantaged compared with their counterparts in those cities.

The administration’s real estate policy has been criticized for fanning home prices in popular, affluent districts by introducing regulations that interfere with supply based on market principles.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)

Homemakers, particularly women who have sons and daughters in high school, have also expressed concern about inconsistent college entrance exam policies.

Moon and the Education Ministry have discussed plans to eliminate some of the nation’s elite high schools, angering many students and parents. Paradoxically, the children of some liberal political heavyweights have graduated from elite schools, including autonomous private high schools and high schools that specialize in teaching foreign languages.

Further, Moon’s popularity among the jobless remains low. According to the poll, only 27 percent of unemployed people and retirees approved of the president’s performance, while 64 percent said he was “not doing well.”

Many microbusiness owners, including self-employed individuals, have had to close up shop as a result of the huge cost burden the Moon government imposed by implementing drastic minimum wage hikes over the past two years.

Young people, accordingly, faced a shortage of part-time jobs. Further, Moon’s earlier pledge to create as many jobs as possible for people in their 20s has gone unfulfilled amid an economic slowdown.

In contrast, Moon’s popularity has increased among white-collar employees, according to the pollster, with 59 percent in this group indicating approval and 35 percent indicating disapproval.

Gallup Korea also found that the majority of people aged between 30 and 49 still support the incumbent president. His approval ratings were 56 percent and 54 percent among those in their 40s and 30s, respectively.

For adults of all ages, ranging from 19-year-olds to people in their 70s and beyond, Moon’s approval and disapproval ratings stood at 45 percent and 48 percent, respectively, for the third week of this month.

By Kim Yon-se (