Positive review of South Korean President Moon Jae-in in his second year in office outweighed the negative, with improved ties with North Korea cited as his biggest achievement and economic governance his worst.
A poll conducted by Matrix from Dec. 29-31 at the request of the Maeil Business Newspaper and MBN asked 1,000 Koreans over the age of 19 to assess the performance of Moon who is now in the midpoint year of his five-year term.
When asked whether they thought Moon was doing well as a president, 50.4 percent gave a positive answer while 41.8 percent answered negatively. The remaining 7.8 percent had no comment.
When asked in which areas they thought the president was doing well, improved relations with North Korea topped the list with a 38.4 percent rating. Moon’s diplomatic maneuvering came into the spotlight last year when he paved the way for three inter-Korean summits and the historic June summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
Moon’s communication skills and his ability to convey empathy were viewed favorably by 28.9 percent of Koreans, with 21.0 percent in support of his reform drive.
Moon, who replaced ousted former President Park Gyen-hye in a snap election in May 2017, rose to power on a mandate to push through socioeconomic reforms and eradicate deep-rooted evils of the past, pledging to rein in powerful conglomerates and break the government’s collusive ties with businesses.
But the president was rated poorly on economic governance. Only 6.3 percent said they were satisfied with the government’s economic policies, especially its cornerstone income-led growth campaign.
Moon’s economic mismanagement stood out more prominently when looking at why Koreans disapprove of the administration. A majority of the respondents, 43.8 percent, answered worsening livelihood and unemployment, with 14.5 percent expressing disapproval of the minimum wage hikes and reduced workweek.
Under Moon’s campaign to achieve a 10,000 won ($8.88) minimum wage within his first three years in office, the government raised the hourly minimum wage by 16.4 percent at the beginning of 2018 and by another 10.9 percent starting this month. In July 2018, Korea also cut the maximum working hours from 68 to 52 hours per week.
The policies were met with fierce opposition from businesses small and large, with many complaining they had to let people go because they cannot afford the new wages.
Job numbers and unemployment rates have reached crisis-hit levels. The number of jobless Koreans sharply increased by 4.4 percent on year to 909,000 last November, the first number above the 900,000 threshold for the month since 1999 in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.
Income disparity has also worsened under the Moon administration. The gap between the top and bottom 20 percent has widened by more than five times – the worst since 2007.
Moon’s focus on North Korea was also viewed as excessive by some, with 22.3 percent critical of the government’s pro-North policies.
By Ko Jae-man and Kim Hyo-jin
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]