SEJONG -- Advocates of President Moon Jae-in and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea appear to be mostly supportive of their efforts to root out corruption from the nation’s public institutions, including their initiative to reform the prosecution.
But their opponents continue to accuse the incumbent administration of underperforming on the economy, especially in areas such as real estate, employment, the minimum wage and GDP growth.
In about 150 days, voters will assess the performance of the president and the ruling party via the general election for the 21st National Assembly.
In September and October, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party seems to have narrowed the gap with the Democratic Party in approval ratings amid the scandal surrounding ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk.
But pollsters say that gap has again widened. One political commentator attributed its return to “the Liberty Korea Party’s stance going beyond the majority opinion of the public.”
A group of Koreans demanding sweeping prosecution reform stage a candlelight rally near the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-dong, Seoul, Oct. 5. (Yonhap)
For more than a month, the right-wing party has conducted a full-fledged protest against the administration’s policy to establish an independent entity to investigate -- and possibly also to indict -- prosecutors and other public officials implicated in corruption.
While a certain percentage of the people disapprove of the Moon administration’s plans to set up a Senior Civil Servant Crime Investigation Unit, they are vastly outnumbered by supporters, a variety of polls have shown since early this year. Supporters comprise at least 50 percent to 70 percent of the adult population.
According to the survey by Gallup Korea, which was conducted Oct. 29-31 and the results released Nov. 2, the gap in approval ratings has widened to 17 percentage points -- 40 percent for the Democratic Party and 23 percent for the Liberty Korea Party.
Earlier, an Oct. 15-17 survey by the same pollster revealed a gap of 9 percentage points -- 36 percent for the ruling party and 27 percent for the main opposition.
In earlier polls in 2018 and 2017, the disparity came to 25 percentage points or more.
In summary, the 30-month history since May 2017 indicates that the Liberty Korea Party has yet to catch up with the Democratic Party, even though it has engaged in a high-speed chase against the front-runner during President Moon’s third year in office.
The recent return to the past situation reflects the prevailing sentiment in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Sejong.
Though a large percentage of residents of the three areas withdrew their support for the ruling party over the Cho Kuk scandal, their stance appears to be shifting back in its favor, according to the latest Oct. 29-31 survey.
In Seoul the Democratic Party posted an approval rating of 43 percent, far exceeding the 19 percent its competitor posted. The results were similar in the Sejong-Daejeon-Chungcheong area at 44 percent to 23 percent, and in the Gyeonggi Province-Incheon area at 39 percent to 22 percent.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)
In Gwangju and the Jeolla provinces, collectively called the Honam area and traditionally the home turf of the left-wing party, the ruling and main opposition posted approval ratings of 62 percent and only 4 percent, respectively. The combined figure for Jeju and Gangwon provinces was not made public.
The ruling party was outstripped by the Liberty Korea Party only in the Yeongnam area -- the right-wing’s home turf -- by 26 percent to 34 percent in Daegu-North Gyeongsang Province and 26 percent to 35 percent in Busan-Ulsan-South Gyeongsang Province.
President Moon’s approval rating reached 44 percent in the Gallup Korea poll in the fifth week of October, compared with 39 percent in the third week of the month.
Meanwhile, a poll by Realmeter and YTN, conducted Oct. 28-Nov. 1, found that the gap between the rival parties stayed under 10 percentage points with the ruling and main opposition gaining 39.6 percent and 31.6 percent in support ratings.
According to the Realmeter poll, there was close competition in Sejong-Daejeon-Chungcheong with the ruling party obtaining 36.9 percent versus 33.5 percent for the opposition, and losing out slightly in Busan-Ulsan-South Gyeongsang with 35.0 percent versus 39.2 percent.
Among the pressing issues political commentators have identified for the April 15 general election are the fast-tracked bill on prosecution reform, the state college entrance examination policy, apartment prices and jobless rates.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)