The Korea Herald


‘Lesser evil’? disapproval of presidential candidates rises

Disapproval of three front-runners hovers around 60% amid various scandals, allegations

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Oct. 24, 2021 - 15:42

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(From left) Yoon Seok-youl, Lee Jae-myung, Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap) (From left) Yoon Seok-youl, Lee Jae-myung, Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)
About four months before the upcoming presidential election, voters increasingly disapprove of three key candidates from both the ruling and opposition parties amid constant scandals, doubts and slip-ups.

According to a survey of 1,000 adults nationwide conducted Oct. 19-21 by Gallup Korea, Lee Jae-myung, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s sole presidential candidate, marked a 32 percent approval rating. Two opposition party candidates, Hong Joon-pyo and Yoon Seok-youl, received 31 percent and 28 percent approval, respectively.

Their disapproval ratings, however, were about double their approval ratings. Sixty percent of those polled disapprove of Lee, 59 percent disapprove of Hong and 62 percent disapprove of Yoon.

Those who support neither of the two biggest parties have seen a gradual rise in number. The figure stood at 25 percent in the third week of October, a rise of two percentage points from two months ago.

The polling results reflect voters’ increasing disappointment in the major candidates as they have been mired in various controversies, allegations and slip-ups.

One of the biggest challenges ruling party candidate Lee faces concerns a controversial housing development project in Daejang-dong that he promoted when he was reelected as mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, in 2014. Questions are being raised as to whether Lee, who had the authority to permit and approve construction work on the project, may have given favors to help some people reap undue profits.

He has also been negatively evaluated in terms of morality for his past drunken driving record, abusive language and an alleged affair with an actress.

Yoon is suspected of being involved in political meddling. He is alleged to have been involved in complaints being filed against politicians and journalists linked to the ruling Democratic Party ahead of last year’s general elections.

Yoon’s mother-in-law and wife are alleged to have been involved in criminal charges such as stock price manipulation. He has also been under fire for frequent slip-ups. Recently he had to hastily explain remarks in which he seemed to defend a former dictator, President Chun Doo-hwan.

Rep. Hong is also not free of criticism over past remarks.

In a book published in 2005, Hong wrote that he had obtained a “piggy stimulant” for a friend who wanted to have sex with a particular woman when he was a college student. He was referring to a livestock drug that induces estrus in pigs used for breeding.

When he was a presidential candidate for the previous conservative Liberty Korea Party in 2017, he said, “(Washing dishes) was decided by heaven and women should not ask men to do it,” causing a stir.

Expectations for an outside candidate are not high either.

The same pollster showed Sim Sang-jeung from the Justice Party had 24 percent approval against 62 percent disapproval, and Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People Party, had a 19 percent approval rating with 72 percent disapproval.

Experts say an election campaign fraught with scandals and allegations without proper pledges may lead to low voter turnout.

Eom Kyeong Young, leader of the Zeitgeist Institute, said, “More than 50 percent disapproval ratings for candidates is a dire situation. If this goes on, those who are centrists or the young generations will be more likely to abstain from voting, saying there is no one to vote for.”

Lee’s approval was relatively high among Democratic Party supporters (69 percent), progressives (56 percent), people in their 40s (47 percent) and voters in the Honam region (46 percent). Honam encompasses Gwangju, South Jeolla Province and North Jeolla Province.

Hong’s popularity was relatively high among People Power Party supporters (45 percent) and conservatives (43 percent), but relatively low among women (24 percent). Yoon’s approval was high among People Power Party supporters (58 percent) and conservatives (43 percent). Forty-nine percent of voters in their 60s and older approve of Yoon, but only 9 percent of those in their 20s do.