Moon must listen to the people

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Moon must listen to the people

President Moon Jae-in’s disapproval rating topped his approval rating has for the first time since he took office in May 2017. A poll by Gallup Korea showed an approval rating of 45 percent and disapproval of 46 percent. The mixed reaction is a sharp reversal of a year ago, when Moon’s approval rating hovered above 70 percent upon hitting all-time high of 84 percent in June. The approval rating has been skidding since it topped 50 percent in the final week of last month.

Fissures were evident not just among centrists but also in the traditional liberal base of Jeolla. Moon’s approval dropped across regions, generations and job segments.

The sinking approval of Moon stems from worsening economic conditions and damage from the income-led growth policy. High expectations turned into disappointment and disgruntlement. The government vowed to make jobs its top priority, but job data hovers around crisis level as a result of sharp increases in the minimum wage and cutback in workweek hour with disregard to economic realities. The poor scoreboard in economic governance has resulted in worsening public sentiment.

Authorities have failed to come up with policy actions to stimulate innovation even as companies lose the will to invest and make little progress in their new ventures due to opposition from mainstream industries and union.

The scandal about the Blue House special inspection team spying on civilians stunned the public. They had faith in the liberal government to be different, given its anti-corruption drive and unrelenting campaign to root out past evils. The Blue House has not given a clear explanation over the affair and only claimed it is innocent. Its actions have spurred criticism about the administration’s self-righteousness and arrogance, and even avid supporters are turning their backs on him.

Every time the president’s approval rating falls, the Blue House has vowed to become more communicative and engaging. But nothing has changed. High-profile events involving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have helped sustain his approval ratings, but with the people’s livelihood turning bad, no showy ventures with North Korea will be able to win back the public’s favor. If he loses the public’s support, the president’s radical North Korea policy and his other plans will lose steam.

Moon should go back to the moment he stood on the inauguration podium, vowing to be a president serving all Koreans. He must pay heed to critical voices to demonstrate engaging and productive leadership.

JoongAng Sunday, Dec. 22, Page 34
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