S Korea’s Moon Jae-in grapples with falling approval ratings
Asia Pacific Focus

S Korea’s Moon Jae-in grapples with falling approval ratings

Moon Jae-in grapples: At a time when Moon Jae-in’s approval ratings are falling, Blue House announced a cabinet reshuffle

Amid a range of policy failures and mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, Moon Jae-in’s approval rating fell to an all-time low this week. A weekly poll on Thursday showed South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating falling by 1.5 percentage points to 35.1 percent in the first week of January 2021. At the same time, his disapproval rating hit a record high of 61.7 percent, with about 34.2 percent of respondents in South Korea backing the main opposition People Power Party (PPP).

This approval rating has come as a warning to Moon Jae-in’s presidency in South Korea as it reached its lowest point since his inauguration in May 2017. This development has come as a result of the Moon administration’s inability to bring stability to South Korea’s housing market.

His government’s policies also failed to improve the livelihood of people amid the pandemic circumstances. While South Korea was lauded for its proactive response to COVID-19, it’s expedient measures couldn’t control the virus spread as cases continued to rise in major cities. Amid the pandemic, economy deteriorated, unemployment rose and workers faced mass layoffs which led to a reduction in support rate for the Moon administration. 

An increasing conflict and political bickering between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over prosecutorial reforms has also impacted people’s support on Moon and the ruling DPK.

At a time when Moon Jae-in’s approval rating reduced, the Blue House announced new appointments for presidential chief of staff and senior secretary for civil affairs backed by the President. Former Chief of Staff Noh Young-min presented the new cabinet members – Yoo Young-min as the new presidential chief of staff and Shin Hyun-soo as the new senior secretary for civil affairs. With Yoo’s expertise in science and ICT, Moon is aiming to work on various state affairs in a bid to lead the fourth industrial revolution. Newly-appointed senior secretary for civil affairs reportedly has a robust expertise in reformation of the judicial system as he previously worked as a planning director at the National Intelligence Service.

In addition, Moon decided to restate Kim Sang-jo as the presidential chief of staff for policy, particularly at a time when the country is fighting with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Significantly, according to experts, this untimely cabinet reshuffle has come at a time when Moon is struggling with decreasing approval rating. With these new appointments, the President is aiming to better manage the state affairs in order improve his approval rating among the public. 

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