President Yoon must change

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President Yoon must change

On Sunday, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader and acting head of the People Power Party (PPP), said he would resign from the chairmanship. His announcement came 23 days after former chairman Lee Jun-seok had been suspended over sexual allegations against him. Three members of the seven-member Supreme Council of the party also stepped down after calling for a colossal revamp of the conservative party, government and presidential office and a retreat of lawmakers close to President Yoon Seok-yeol from the frontline. Acting head Kweon has repeatedly made fumbles, including the exposure last week of sensitive test messages between him and the president.

Rep. Kweon made the decision amid the plunging approval rating of President Yoon to the 20-percent range. A Gallup Korea poll shows only 28 percent of the respondents approved of Yoon’s performance as president while 62 percent disapproved. Such an abysmal rating of the president less than three months after inauguration reflects a serious level of disapproval among his supporters, not to mention moderates and swing voters. In the recent poll, only 20 percent of people in their 20s and 17 percent of those in their 30s supported the president, while more than a half of the people in their 60s — his major support base — disapproved of him.

The alarming drop in the rating bodes ill for the future of the Yoon administration. As the opposition Democratic Party (DP) has supermajority in the legislature, the government cannot push any polices without its support. The government will certainly have trouble coping with an economic crisis after the pandemic and the Ukraine war, let alone pushing for long-overdue reforms of the national pension system.

Nonetheless, the ruling front has been engrossed with a heated internal battle to take the helm of the party to take nomination rights for the 2024 parliamentary elections. Following an intense battle between pro-Lee and pro-Yoon factions earlier, an internal conflict continued even after Lee’s suspension. After watching the developments, Lee ridiculed the divisive party with his uniquely sarcastic rhetoric on social media. Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, an archrival of Lee, has proposed to hold an early national convention to establish a new leadership of the embattled party.

President Yoon, a former prosecutor general, must first fix the direction of the new government during his five-day summer vacation this week. He must pay heed to public criticism for his appointment fiascos (21 percent), lack of political experience and qualification as head of state (8 percent), neglect of people’s livelihoods (8 percent), and insufficient communication with opposition parties (6 percent).
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