South Korea’s Conservatives Outpoll Moon’s Party for First Time

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The popularity of South Korea’s main opposition party exceeded the ruling party’s ratings for the first time in a major poll since President Moon Jae-in took office in 2017, amid soaring real estate prices in Seoul.

The approval rate for the conservative United Future Party rose to 36.5%, up from 34.6% a week ago, a weekly Realmeter poll released Thursday showed. Moon’s ruling Democratic Party fell to 33.4% from 35.1% a week ago, it said.

The slipping poll numbers come after Moon, whose single five-year term ends in 2022, and his progressive camp scored a supermajority in parliamentary elections in April, riding a wave of public support for their management of the coronavirus crisis. The eroding support could make it difficult for Moon to take on other policy priorities such as reducing income inequality and reforming chaebol conglomerates.

“The public’s opinion about the ruling party’s real estate policy has worsened,” Realmeter said. It was the first time that the conservatives’ popularity surpassed that of the progressives since October 2016, when protests mounted for then conservative President Park Geun-hye to be impeached, it said.

Affordable housing has been one of Moon’s key policy objectives since taking office in May 2017. Yet a mismatch of supply and demand in popular neighborhoods and widespread investment purchases have seen prices soar in Seoul.

Last week, six top aides to Moon offered to resign to take responsibility for the recent management of the administration, in a shake-up seen by local media as being caused by public anger over housing. As of Thursday, four of the resignations have been accepted by the presidential office.

Adding to his woes, Moon has also seen his calls for warmer ties with North Korea rebuffed by Pyongyang, which in June blew up a joint liaison office he backed and labeled him as meddlesome for trying to be a bridge between U.S. President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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