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The Peninsula

Citizens Signal Dissatisfaction in Polls

Published March 22, 2021
Author: Korea View

What Happened

  • Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl stepped down on March 4 to protest the passage of a series of bills that limit prosecutor’s investigative power.
  • After opposing the Democratic Party(DP)-backed decision, Yoon’s popularity rose in a poll of prospective candidates for the 2022 presidential election, though he has not announced his candidacy.
  • Similarly, polls show Seoul residents favoring the opposing PPP more than President Moon’s DP.

Implications: The popularity of candidates opposing the ruling party signals people’s growing dissatisfaction with the incumbent administration. Several factors might be contributing to this fall in Moon’s approval rating in his final term as president. These include recent controversies over a decision to delay vaccine distribution to those over 65 years old and ongoing challenges with housing prices. Signs of disapproval are further evident in former Prosecutor General Yoon’s popularity following his public criticism of the ruling party’s prosecution reform initiatives. Decreasing support for the government can be seen in polls of Seoul’s upcoming mayoral election. PPP leads in the polls with 34.2% support. All these signs point to potential challenges for the ruling party not only in the regional elections in April but also the presidential election in March 2022.

Context: Though Moon’s popularity has dropped to 40% this month, his administration remains more popular than previous administrations in their final year. Park Geun-hye, Moon’s predecessor, experienced a 4% approval rating in 2016 after details of an influence-peddling scheme came to light. With corruption scandals hounding his administration and family, former President Lee Myung-bak had an approval rating of 18% in his final year. The Roh Moo-hyun administration’s poor economic performance left it with an approval rating of only 11%. The generally low approval ratings of all four administrations suggest that Moon and his ruling party may be entering the election cycle in better health compared to their predecessors.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Melissa Cho and Alexandra Langford. Creative Commons image from Flickr account of the Republic of Korea

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