The main opposition The Minjoo Party of Korea is regaining approval ratings in its traditional stronghold in southwestern Korea that had overwhelmingly voted against it in last month’s parliamentary election.
The approval rating for the Minjoo Party’s former chairman and presidential hopeful Rep. Moon Ja-in is also rebounding, recent polls showed.
Realmeter said Sunday that in its survey on 1,517 adults nationwide from May 2-4, the Minjoo Party’s approval ratings rose 7.6 percentage points to 35.2 percent in Gwangju and Jeolla provinces, compared to the third-largest People’s Party, which saw its approval ratings decline by 14.8 percentage points to 35.8 percent.
The turnaround was also apparent for Moon and People’s Party co-chief Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo. Moon received an approval rating of 31.3 percent, up by 8 percentage points from the week before. Ahn dropped to the second place for the first time since the election at 25.5 percent, falling 10.4 percentage points.
The Minjoo Party of Korea’s new floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho (center) introduces his team at the National Assembly on Sunday. (Yonhap)
In the April 13 general election, the region, also known as Honam, gave the People’s Party 23 seats out of 28. The Minjoo Party only landed three seats while another two went to the ruling Saenuri Party. The results were widely perceived as disgruntled constituents judging the main opposition for its factional feuds that allegedly undermined representatives hailing from the region.
The People’s Party was launched just months before the election by Minjoo Party defectors that had turned against then-chairman Moon.
Upon the election, however, the tide appears to be turning, as the People’s Party – with its policy stance still ambiguous – has hinted at cooperating with the ruling party in the upcoming National Assembly. The People’s Party has risen as the group with swaying power, with 38 seats. The Saenuri has 122 seats while the Minjoo Party has 123 seats.
“If President Park Geun-hye apologizes for her maladministration and seeks for cooperation, (we are willing to) have the Saenuri Party (member) become the Assembly speaker,” a Jeolla native and the People’s Party’s new whip Rep. Park Jie-won had said last week.
The party’s co-chief Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo suffered a setback recently for making controversial comments, such as by saying that education policies should become more autonomous and that there is no need for the Education Ministry.
Prior to the election, Moon had visited the Honam region and pleaded for support, saying he would retire from politics should the constituents decide not to vote for the Minjoo Party. But despite the crushing defeat in the region, Moon has remained low key, with opposition supporters widely split on whether he should follow through with his promise.
The two party’s new whips, meanwhile, are to meet for the first time since their endorsements on Monday.
The Minjoo Party has elected former student-activist and moderate Woo Sang-ho, while the People’s Party picked Park, the veteran and former aide to President Kim Dae-jung. The Minjoo Party is counting on cooperation from the People’s Party in its legislative rivalry with the Saenuri Party.
But so far, the Saenuri Party’s new floor leader and lawmaker-elect Chung Jin-suk seems to have beat the Minjoo Party to it, by visiting Park the day after his election accompanied by the press, hugging him and calling him “Hyeongnim,” an endearing term addressing a person of higher age and rank.
Park and Woo have reportedly maintained a tense relationship, and they have locked horns in a factional power struggle, as Woo had countered Park’s accusations against the party’s mainstreamers supportive of Moon.
“(Park) is someone who could become the floor leader (only) with the help of chairman Ahn Cheol-soo,” Woo had said. (firstname.lastname@example.org