Opportune crisisPresident Lee Myung-bak’s approval rating has fallen to 29 percent, according to a survey conducted Monday by a Grand National Party research center. Former President Kim Young-sam enjoyed an approval rating higher than 80 percent 100 days after he was sworn in. Former President Kim Dae-jung’s rating continued to be at the 70 percent level for his first six months in office. Former President Roh Moo-hyun’s approval rating was around 60 percent after 70 days.
President Lee was elected by a much greater margin than these three former presidents. Under normal circumstances, he should be enjoying an even higher approval rating than his predecessors. Instead, the approval rating for his party, the GNP, has also fallen significantly, to 30 percent, from approximately 50 percent at the time of the presidential election.
The current approval rating for the president is down 10 percent from just a week ago. People’s overblown concerns about mad cow disease likely have something to do with it. Those who were influenced by groundless information, something close to superstition, must have withdrawn their support for the president. As such, President Lee might feel the rating is unfair. But even when this factor is taken into account, his approval rating fell too sharply. There must be fundamental problems in the president’s handling of the state affairs.
Looking back, the presidential transition team was too greedy and eager, followed by problems in appointing cabinet members. Then, issues arose when the GNP made nominations for the legislative elections. Lee’s camp failed to embrace Park Geun-hye, another senior member of the party. Some of the presidential secretaries had to resign. This series of events led to confusion in governance and policy making. The hostile economic climate inside and outside the country is dogging the administration’s optimistic growth rate goal. The president shouts for advancement, but few would say that things have become better since he took office.
The president shouldn’t justify the low approval rating by thinking that the number is subject to flux. The rating mirrors his shortcomings. He is probably too self-assured because of his former successes and perhaps creates an environment that turns his people into yes-men. Personnel affairs were handled carelessly. He didn’t do his best to engage rival forces or to persuade the people with his policies. He is obsessed with producing results as soon as possible. Some of his key aides created problems. The president is in a position where something must change. If he resolves to reform himself and his administration, the 29 percent approval rating can serve as medicine in the end. After all, President Lee is known for having changed crises into opportunities throughout his life.