Integration is keyPresident Moon Jae-in completes half of his five-year term this week. His midterm score is disastrous. Public confidence in the president who replaced an impeached head of state has been halved. According to a recent Gallup Korea poll, Moon’s approval rating sank to 44 percent in the final week of October from 84 percent in the first week of June in 2017 — shortly after he was inaugurated in May. No leader has had such an epic fall.
His governance over both domestic and foreign affairs has been poor. The economy is performing its worst in a decade, exports have been in a downturn for 11 straight months, and youth unemployment has reached record highs. On the external front, the alliance between South Korea and the United States has been shaken and ties with Japan are at their worst. That’s not all. North Korea has been building up its nuclear arms.
The ideological contest from the conflict over former Justice Minister Cho Kuk has deepened the social divide. Weekend protest rallies from opposite groups against and for the government have become a fixture. There are no endeavors to solve the problem or a leadership that can resolve the divide. President Moon must start from the beginning if he wants to complete the remainder of his term on a strong note.
Moon promised to be a president for every citizen. He promised to recruit anyone for his administration, regardless of their political backgrounds. But he has kept his pool to his political and ideological allies, resulting in the chaos over Cho Kuk.
The Blue House has become oversized, destabilizing the administration. It has overwhelmed cabinet ministers and government offices. President Moon’s Chief of Staff Noh Young-min and other presidential aides scorn opposition lawmakers. Politicians on both sides criticize the president for being out of touch with the reality because he is overprotected by his aides. The relationship between the presidential office and cabinet must go back to normal. The presidential office must return to its original role of aiding the president and governance must be left up to the cabinet.
The remaining half of Moon’s term could be equally challenging. The results of the general election in April could affect the political landscape. The values of fairness and justice he championed have come under question after the Cho Kuk scandal. He must reorganize the cabinet to bring more balance.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 5, Page 30