Posted : 2016-04-18 17:39
Updated : 2016-04-18 21:04

Park and Saenuri's approval ratings dip to new lows

By Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye's job approval rating is at its lowest point since she took office in February 2013, according to the latest opinion poll.

The survey, conducted by local pollster Realmeter, Monday, found that only 31.5 percent of Koreans have a favorable opinion of the way the President handles state affairs — a sharp decline from the previous week's 39.6 percent.

The previous low for Park was 31.8 percent tallied during the first week of February in 2015, amid allegations that Park's former confidant, Jeong Yun-hoe, was involved in influencing state affairs and high-ranking government appointments.

In addition, Park's disapproval rating also jumped to 62.3 percent from 54.5 percent.

"President Park lost the backing of her traditional conservative supporters who are in their 60s and above, and from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province," Realmeter said in a statement. "In addition, she also lost support from most areas of the country."

Taking a close look at the poll, the support from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province — Park's political strongholds — decreased from 56.3 percent to 48.8 percent.

Even, in Busan and South Gyeongsang Province, which were traditionally strong backers for the ruling party, Park's job approval plummeted from 47.1 percent to 31 percent.

The departure of Park's supporters from her home turf seems to be due to the presidential office's alleged involvement in the Saenuri Party's candidate nominations for the general election, in which the party won 122 parliamentary posts, behind the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea's (MPK) 123 seats.

In order to continue holding a grip on power in her remaining term in office, Park had urged the party to field candidates that were loyal to her, but voters were disappointed at such an "undemocratic act" and cast their ballots against the President and her party, political analysts say.

In the wake of the lowest approval rating and the Saenuri Party's unexpectedly heavy defeat, President Park said she humbly accepts the results of the elections as representative of the minds of the people and will prioritize improving people's living standards on her legislative agenda.

"The government will closely cooperate with the new National Assembly," Park said during a meeting with her senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae.

Saenuri also suffers slide

The poll also showed that the MPK received the highest approval rating among political parties — the first time since its foundation in December last year.

The party, which has become the largest presence in the National Assembly with 123 lawmakers, earned an approval rating of 30.4 percent — a gain of 2.8 percentage points from a week earlier.

Even in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province, the Saenuri Party's political stronghold, the MPK had a higher approval — 34.1 percent to 31.9 percent.

The ruling party, which failed to win a parliamentary majority for the first time in 16 years, had 27.5 percent support overall, sliding below 30 percent for the first time during the current 19th-term National Assembly.

The minor opposition People's Party, which established itself as a solid third party after capturing 38 parliamentary posts in the election, saw its rating stand at 23.9 percent — a 5.4 percentage point increase from the previous week.

Regarding presidential candidates, former MPK Rep. Moon Jae-in would beat any other candidate in next year's election, the poll said.

According to the poll, Moon garnered support of 24.7 percent to enjoy leading status for the 14th straight week, while Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, the co-chairman of the People's Party, ranked second with 18.9 percent.

Former Seoul Mayor Oh Sei-hoon was third with 10.1 percent as former Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung saw his rating fall into single digits from 13.9 percent to 8.7 percent.

However, the weekly poll did not include United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is often regarded as a prospective candidate for the next presidency.

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