South Korean President Moon's support hits record low amid land scandal

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's approval rating fell to 34 per cent, down from 37 per cent a week ago.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in's approval rating fell to 34 per cent, down from 37 per cent a week ago.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in's support rate hit a record low in the wake of a land scandal that has rocked his government, a worrisome sign for his progressive camp ahead of mayoral elections next month in Seoul and Busan.

Moon's approval rating fell to 34 per cent, down from 37 per cent a week ago, a tracking survey from Gallup Korea released Friday showed. The drop came after Moon apologised last week over allegations state-run Korea Land & Housing Corp employees used insider information to buy land near Seoul, which was later selected by the central government as areas for major housing developments.

Affordable housing has been one of Moon's key policy objectives since taking office in May 2017 with a vow to improve the living standards of a wider range of people. Yet a mismatch of supply and demand in popular neighbourhoods and widespread investment purchases have seen prices soar in Seoul.

The scandal is the latest in a series of questionable land deals that have dogged the Moon presidency.

Elections on April 7 for the mayor's job in the country's two most-populous cities, Seoul and Busan, represent the largest electoral tests for Moon's Democratic Party ahead of a presidential vote about a year away.

Moon, whose single five-year term as president ends in 2022, was dealt a blow earlier this month when the country's top prosecutor resigned in protest against the President's policy to strip the office of investigative powers.

Yoon Seok-youl, the former prosecutor-general, has seen his support rise since then and was the top pick for President in a survey released this month, ahead of contenders in Moon's camp.

The slipping poll numbers come after Moon and his allies scored a supermajority in parliamentary elections about a year ago, riding a wave of public support for their management of the coronavirus crisis.