President’s approval rating sinks to record 29%

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President’s approval rating sinks to record 29%

President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating plummeted to 29 percent, a record low for her term, in the aftermath of the ruling party’s crushing general election defeat.

According to a Gallup Korea poll, only 29 percent of those surveyed gave a positive review of Park’s performance as president, 10 percentage points down from last week. In the latest survey, 58 percent said Park was not performing her job properly. The weekly poll took place from Tuesday through Thursday.

It was the third time that Park’s approval rating went down below 30 percent in a Gallup Korea poll. Her approval rating dropped to 29 percent in late January 2015, when the government was embarrassed by a rise in year-end tax bills for many middle-class Koreans. It dropped to 29 percent again in June 2015 during the deadly outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome.

Of those who were negative about Park’s performance, 20 percent criticized her poor communication with the public. Another 15 percent said they disapproved of Park’s handling of the economy, and 12 percent cited her “high-handedness.”

The poll had a confidence interval of 95 percent and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

In last week’s general election, Park’s Saenuri Party suffered a humiliating defeat, losing its majority in the legislature and being reduced to the second-largest group in the next National Assembly. The Saenuri Party won 122 seats, the Minjoo Party of Korea won 123, the People’s Party won 38 and the Justice Party won six.

As public support for the ruling party and president plummeted, elder statesmen of the Saenuri Party urged Park to admit her wrongs and promise a change in the way she governs.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul, floor leader of the Saenuri Party and its acting head, invited senior politicians on Thursday to offer their advice on how to salvage the sinking conservative party.

Kim Soo-han, who served as National Assembly speaker from 1996 to 1998, said the nomination process for last week’s general election was “lamentable” and “shameful and humiliating.”

“The voters issued a warning in advance before the presidential election,” Kim said. “The party must take the general election defeat as an important precursor, and thoroughly reform itself.”

In a closed-door meeting, Kim and other senior politicians held Park accountable, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“This is no time for the president to sit with folded arms,” Kim said. “Instead of kibitzing in factional fights, she must declare that the factional fight must end. She can do that by inviting the factions’ leaders to the Blue House or issue a public message. Park holds the key to ending the factional fights.”

Kwon Chul-hyeon, standing adviser to the party, said Park must dismantle the faction loyal to her.

“If she appoints talented people to the right posts during the remainder of her term, regardless of factions and party affiliations, she will be remembered as a great president.”

BY SER MYO-JA, CHOI SUN-WOOK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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