|President Moon Jae-in|
Moon looking to renew momentum with focus on economy
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in's job approval rating fell below the 40 percent mark for the first time since he took office in the latest Gallup poll, reflecting the growing public discontent toward his administration in the wake of the Cho Kuk disaster, which paralyzed politics and divided society.
In an Oct. 18 survey, 39 percent of the 1,004 respondents said Moon was doing a good job, down 4 percent from a week ago. The falling rating is particularly bad news for Cheong Wa Dae, which is looking to lift up the sagging momentum for state affairs as the President marks the halfway point of his five-year presidency, Nov. 10. Moon made a public apology over Cho, but that was not enough to regain the public's trust amid increasing criticism of his "arbitrary" style of management. A reshuffle of the cabinet or Cheong Wa Dae is not being considered as a means to reinvigorate the administration, an official from the presidential office said.
The 30-percent approval range is a blow for Moon, who at the height of his popularity was at the over 70 percent level. The declining ratings have resulted in growing concerns over an early "lame duck" presidency, but Cheong Wa Dae has been making urgent efforts to put such concerns to rest by focusing on the economy, which has been seen as one of the President's weakest areas. The presidential office held a briefing once again Sunday to address issues related to the ongoing unemployment crisis. It was the second Sunday in row for Cheong Wa Dae to arrange a briefing on economic issues to promote some of the "outcomes" of the administration's economic policies. "Except for jobseekers in their 40s, there has been a noticeable improvement in employment figures across all age groups," Hwang Deok-soon, the presidential secretary for job creation said.
The presidential office has refrained from reacting to the declining support, saying there was much work to do.
"Of course, we pay careful attention to the voices of the people and make an assessment; but we are not swayed by the ratings, whether they go up or down. It is not right to change direction or react sensitively according to the ratings," a presidential aide said during a briefing, Friday. But Moon's latest focus on the economy shows Cheong Wa Dae's determination to put the Cho scandal behind them, and pursue achievements on the economic front ahead of the campaign for the April 2020 general election.
The biggest reason for the drop was attributed to economic factors, with 25 percent of the negative assessment citing a lack of leadership on issues related to the economy and the people's livelihoods. A big proportion also had to with Moon's personnel decisions, such as his appointment of his former senior secretary for civil affairs Cho as justice minister. Despite Cho's resignation from the post after only 34 days of service, public rallies continued to take place over the weekend in various sites in Seoul among those supporting Moon' judicial reform, and those against it. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party took part in a rally in Gwanghwamun, saying the "October uprising" against the Moon administration must continue even after Cho's resignation.
Cheong Wa Dae has been focusing on the economy lately, with the President taking part in a series of events in regional areas hosted by Samsung and Hyundai, as part of measures to promote regional growth and future industries. Moon also hosted an emergency meeting with his key economic policymakers at the central government complex in Seoul last week, the first of its kind since he took office. He had a long lunch with them at the complex prior to the meeting, where they exchanged frank ideas on how address core concerns regarding the economy and advancing the people's livelihoods.