President Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)
Yoon Suk-yeol has shrugged off the decline in his approval ratings, but as they fall below 30 percent, he faces an uphill battle if he wants to get public opinion on his side.
According to a poll released by Gallup Korea on Friday, which surveyed 1,000 people from July 26-28, only 28 percent of the respondents said Yoon was doing well.
Personnel management accounts for the biggest part of the decline in approval ratings.
Alongside his Cabinet, dominated by former prosecutors and figures embroiled in personal scandals, the “unfair” hiring of his and first lady Kim Keon-hee’s acquaintances in the presidential office caused several controversies. Whenever criticism was made, Yoon and his office refused to apologize, denouncing the media for taking issue with it.
In the second and third weeks of July, the decline seemed to be slowing, with a positive evaluation holding up at an already low 32 percent.
At the time, he refrained from speaking during regular morning press briefings -- where he often made gaffes -- and his spouse Kim also refrained from public activities.
However, as a text message between Yoon and his closest aide Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, was caught on press cameras, controversy erupted again. The text message showed Yoon saying he was happy with the change in the party’s leadership and took a swipe at suspended party leader Lee Jun-seok.
“It’s different now that the party leader, who was just picking fights within his own party, has changed,” Yoon wrote in the messages sent via Telegram.
The presidential office has been sticking to its original stance for weeks that it will not be swayed by a decline in approval ratings. But on Sunday afternoon, it changed its tone for the first time, saying, “We are listening attentively” to the demand for a Cabinet reshuffle.
However, as Yoon’s approval rating fell to 20 percent, which is very rare in a president’s honeymoon period, the idea of a reshuffle of the presidential office is re-emerging.
“The primary responsibility for the decline in the approval rating is President Yoon, and the presidential office and Cabinet should be completely reformed,” former National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won said in a local radio interview Friday.
Park headed the NIS under the previous administration and has been under investigation since Yoon took office over alleged wrongdoing during that time.
Political commentator Park Sang-byoung said the most severe problem is that Yoon himself is not “aware of the seriousness” of the situation at all.
“Yoon should be fully aware of the seriousness of the situation during his vacation,” he said. Yoon began his first five-day summer vacation on Monday.
“To recover public trust, Yoon should apologize in a press conference after returning from vacation and reshuffle his Cabinet,” he said. “Yoon can regain the people’s trust with these measures because he is a political novice and is still in the early stages of state administration.”
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org