South Korea Virus Response Pushes Moon Rating to Historic High

(Bloomberg) -- The approval rating for Moon Jae-in hit a record high for any democratically elected South Korean president at the same point in their term in office, in a show of public support for government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Moon’s approval rating hit 71% in a weekly Gallup Korea tracking poll released Friday, its highest since July 2018 and the highest for any president heading into the final two years of a single, five-year term, the agency said. This comes as new infections in South Korea having fallen to single digits several weeks ago, allowing Moon’s government to ease its social distancing campaign and start reopening schools from May 13.

The record support builds on the momentum his progressive ruling coalition scored in April with the largest parliamentary election victory since the end of military-backed rule more than three decades ago, signaling to global leaders that a strong pandemic response can win votes.

The election gave Moon’s camp a three-fifths supermajority, allowing it to push through legislation without opposition votes. The victory adds support to the bloc’s key goals to reduce income inequality by prioritizing wages, reforming chaebol conglomerates and tightening rules on expensive housing development.

Moon has also pushed for warmer ties with North Korea but Pyongyang has for months rejected his calls for talks, and told him to stand aside in its negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump.

South Korea, which in early March had the second highest number of cases behind China, has been able to control the virus spread without having to take severe measures such as imposing a lockdown, mandating closing of businesses or banning oversea travel.

Like other world leaders, Moon stumbled in his early response to the pandemic, having predicted that the virus would be terminated “before long” only to see cases spike days later. But the government’s focus on mass testing and isolation of the sick to corral coronavirus clusters has been credited with the sharp slowdown in the spread.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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