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Yoon’s rating slumps over flooding, family scandal

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : July 24, 2023 - 15:16

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President Yoon Suk Yeol visits a cattle farm in Tancheon-myeon, Gongju, South Chungcheong Province to comfort the victims affected by torrential rain on July 18. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol visits a cattle farm in Tancheon-myeon, Gongju, South Chungcheong Province to comfort the victims affected by torrential rain on July 18. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol's approval rating continued its downward trajectory for a third consecutive week amid the torrential rain crisis that caused significant casualties and the court arrest of his mother-in-law on document forgery charges.

According to the survey conducted from July 17-21 by polling agency Realmeter, commissioned by Media Tribune, positive evaluations of Yoon’s state affairs performance fell 1.5 percentage points from the previous week, marking 36.6 percent. Negative evaluations of his performance climbed 1 percentage point to 59.9 percent.

Yoon’s approval rating recorded 42 percent in the fifth week of June and has been on a downward trend for three weeks in a row.

At the same time, his disapproval rating has continued to rise, moving from 55.1 percent in the last week of June to 58 percent in the first week of July, 58.9 percent in the second week and 59.9 percent by the third week of July.

The dip in his approval rating seems to stem from severe human casualties resulting from torrential rains during Yoon’s visits to Poland and Ukraine.

Flooding and landslides nationwide resulted in 47 deaths and three missing persons, as of Saturday, according to government data. A total of 17,998 individuals were evacuated and 825,000 livestock, including chickens and ducks, perished.

The conviction of Yoon’s mother-in-law Choi Eun-soon on Friday may have affected the rating as well. The court sentenced Choi to one year in prison and took her into custody immediately. She was convicted on charges of forgery of private documents, use of forged private documents and violation of real estate law.

Choi Jin, head of the Institute for Presidential Leadership in Seoul, said that the issue involving Yoon's mother-in-law has likely had little impact on his approval rating, and foreign affairs and security issues tend to have only a temporary effect. "However, issues related to public livelihood are directly connected to approval ratings," he said.

"With 47 people dead in the floods, the ultimate responsibility inevitably falls on the president, as he failed to safeguard the people's livelihoods," he said. "At such times, he needs to demonstrate that he's actively and intensively addressing public welfare issues."

Yoon will reportedly reduce his summer vacation schedule this year. Although he was likely to take a break between late July and early August, the ongoing rain damage has made this unclear. An official from the presidential office said, "We have not yet decided how to adjust the schedule of the president’s vacation."

Political commentator Park Chang-hwan said that Yoon must critically reevaluate his administration. Yoon's continuously lackluster approval rating, which has remained between 30 percent and 40 percent over the past year, is not a fleeting concern, he said.

"This rating might fluctuate slightly, but it stays within that range," Park said. "It's time for the government to assess if its ministries are earning public empathy, ensuring they're not excessively self-righteous, and examine if their initiatives are resonating with the public."