President nowhere to be seen

30-Nov-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:50 AM Print This Post

President Moon Jae-in is in the hot seat over staying tight-lipped for a month on controversial issues, inviting conflicts and divides and dragging down his leadership approval rating.

As a result, more people are growing critical of his uncommunicative behavior, with his approval rating dropping to near record lows.

Last week Moon again showed deafening silence when a yearlong power struggle between Justice minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor general Yoon Seok-youl resulted in Choo’s suspension of Yoon from duty over alleged ethical and legal breaches.

Despite the unprecedented case that has drawn strong backlash from prosecutors to denounce Choo’s decision as illegal and unjust, Moon, who appointed the top prosecutor, has kept silent on the issue. Regarding Yoon’s suspension, Cheong Wa Dae said the President was briefed on the justice minister’s decision shortly before the announcement but did not comment on it.

Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), criticised Moon, Wednesday, saying, “I have to ask, in this situation, what is the role of the President, who holds the power of appointment or firing?”

Kim reiterated his criticism of the head of state, Saturday, when he visited PPP lawmakers staging a protest in front of Cheong Wa Dae and asking for the President’s position on the issue.

“I think President Moon nodded in silent agreement with the justice minister’s decision in advance,” he said.

Ahead of the Choo-Yoon brouhaha, the Moon administration was also caught in allegations that the presidential office pulled strings in the early closure of the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor.

Last month, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced that the economic viability of the nation’s nuclear reactor was unreasonably undervalued in determining the facility’s early shutdown in December 2019. Speculation is also rampant that Cheong Wa Dae masterminded the plan in line with Moon’s nuclear phase-out policy.

At the time, however, Moon’s office declined to comment on the BAI results without clearing the allegations.

His silence continued on an airport project in the nation’s southeastern region after the government virtually scrapped the project to expand the Gimhae International Airport earlier this month, leaning toward building a new one on Busan’s Gadeok Island.

Critics claim the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea are using the airport project to curry favour with Busan voters ahead of the mayoral by-election next April, but Moon has stayed quiet on the issue. Constructing a new airport in the southeastern region was one of Moon’s 2017 election campaign pledges, although the expansion plan of Gimhae was made in 2016 based on a year-long feasibility study by the French company Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie.

The President has also barely responded to public outcry over the government’s real estate policies which have kept backfiring and only raising housing prices.

All through these issues, Moon did issue messages to the public through social media and during his participation in events, but he addressed the Korean New Deal, the fight against crimes targeting women and social distancing rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic ? all unrelated to the contentious issues.

Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong criticised Moon, Saturday, for lack of communication as the President.

“Unlike former President Roh Moo-hyun, President Moon is unduly lukewarm about communicating with others. He holds a press conference only once per year,” Won said on Facebook, adding the Kim Dae-jung administration and the Roh administration had over 150 press conferences during their respective tenures. Moon was Roh’s presidential chief of staff.

“Along with the frequency of press conferences, President Moon keeps quiet on significant pending issues and such a trend has continued for quite a long time.”

Shin Pyung, a lawyer who helped President Moon during his election campaign in 2017, said Moon is the type of person who sees people as either for him or against him, and works closely only with the former.

“The most recognisable feature of such a person is to hold no responsibility and avoid it,” Shin said on Facebook.

Amid Moon’s continuing silence on the pending issues, the public seem to be turning their backs on Moon as his approval rating has declined for the third straight week.

According to Gallup Korea, Friday, 40 percent of people approved of the way the President was handling state affairs, with 48 percent critical of his leadership. The support rate stood at 46 percent two weeks ago and 44 percent a week ago. It interviewed 1,005 people aged 18 and above.

The number was nearing his administration’s record-low 39 percent, which his approval rating has dipped to twice before: in the third week of August this year and the third week of October 2019.


Category: Korea

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