South Korea’s Moon Jae-in received another blow to his presidency, with his approval rating hitting a record low, days after he apologized over the resignation of his scandal-tainted justice minister.
President Moon was forced to make the public apology on Oct. 14 after Cho Kuk bowed to protests and stepped down, just weeks after the president ignored corruption concerns over his political ally and appointed him to reform the justice system.
Support for Moon was at 39 percent, according to data released Oct. 18 by Gallup Korea, which conducts regular tracking polls. Those surveyed cited management of the economy and Moon’s appointments as reasons. The approval rating slipped from 43 percent a week ago, and compared with 84 percent immediately after his election in May 2017.
The ruling party’s approval rating was down one percentage point to 36 percent, while the main opposition was unchanged at 27 percent.
Moon, a Catholic, won the presidency on a “people-power” campaign to oust and prosecute conservative president Park Geun-hye over corruption scandals that had triggered months of street rallies involving millions of people.
But Moon has since faced his own problems over a sluggish economy, while a promise of securing peace with North Korea has proved frustrating. South Korea’s worsening relations with Japan over an unresolved historical dispute has also spiraled into a spat over trade.
Moon suffered a fresh setback with Cho’s resignation over the weeks-long protests that have cast a shadow over his party’s hopes in parliamentary elections next April.
Moon’s announcement on Sept. 9 to appoint one of his former secretaries to the justice minister’s job despite corruption probes swirling around him had drawn comparisons with Park’s cronyism.
Moon had vowed to halt such behavior, pledging at his inauguration to “become the president for everyone.”
Cho, as minister, was given the politically charged job of reforming the national prosecutor’s office as part of a government campaign to stamp out corruption. He has denied wrongdoing in a range of issues of financial irregularity involving his family, including his children’s university applications.
Prosecutors have raided his home as part of a corruption probe into the issues, while the public protests have spread to universities where students have accused the president of favouritism.