A year before the next presidential election, former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s approval rating as a potential presidential candidate has soared following his resignation last week.
According to a survey of 1,123 citizens aged 18 or older conducted on Friday, Yoon has the highest support of possible presidential candidates with 32.4 percent.
Yoon’s approval rating jumped 17.8 percentage points in just six weeks compared to 14.6 percent on Jan. 22.
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung came in second with 24.1 percent and Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon came in third with 14.9 percent.
Although Yoon did not reveal any plans to enter politics yet, his recent remarks have been interpreted by some as political moves.
Upon his resignation on Friday, Yoon left room to step into politics by saying, “I will continue to do my best to protect liberal democracy and protect the people as I have done so far.”
On Saturday, he also made political remarks about the allegations that employees of the state-run Korea Land & Housing Corp. speculated on property in government-designated development areas.
In an interview with a local newspaper, Yoon said the state should “immediately and extensively investigate the allegations.” He added, “Corruption is contagious and the state has the responsibility to prevent it.”
Despite the jump in his approval rating, and hints to political moves, opinions are divided over whether the former top prosecutor’s participation in politics is appropriate.
According to a survey of 500 adult conducted by Realmeter, 48 percent of respondents deemed Yoon’s entry into politics as appropriate, while 46.3 percent said it is not.
While a majority of conservative respondents said his entry into politics is appropriate, more than 70 percent of progressive respondents called it inappropriate.
The reactions are also mixed in political circles.
The opposition bloc, which faces a dearth of recognizable figures for the upcoming presidential election, seem to welcome Yoon’s political moves.
Kim Chong-in, an interim chief of main opposition People Power Party, called Yoon a “person of the opposition bloc,” and said, “A new junction may emerge in the process of the People Power Party’s making changes after the by-election (for Seoul mayor).”
Ahn Cheol-soo, chairman of minority opposition People’s Party and Seoul mayor candidate, believes Yoon will “move in a way that will help the opposition party change the current regime.”
The ruling party, however, has denounced Yoon’s political moves after he resigned in protest against the party’s push to set up a new investigative agency to weaken the power of the prosecution.
Choi In-ho, a senior spokesman of Democratic Party of Korea, deemed Yoon’s resignation a “irresponsible political declaration,” adding his resignation further damaged the prosecution’s status.
Democratic Party Rep. Ko Min-jung said that by resigning, Yoon broke his promise that he made to the people while taking office.
Following the April 7 by-election for Seoul mayor, opposition parties are expected to begin selecting candidates for next year’s presidential election which falls on March 9.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org