Blue House relocation plan faces backlash . . .
Less than three weeks after his narrow victory in South Korea’s presidential election, polling shows that Yoon Suk-yeol’s disapproval rating (49.6%) is now higher than his approval rating (46%). Although the gap is small, these numbers are unusual as incoming presidents in South Korea tend to enjoy approval ratings of 70 to 80 per cent. Yoon’s controversial push to relocate the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office and official residence, may have partly contributed to growing negative public opinion. Despite financial and national security concerns raised by critics, Yoon continues to insist that the office be relocated from a secluded mountainside palace to a defence ministry compound in central Seoul. Yoon claims that the move would bring the Blue House, which he calls “a symbol of imperial power of the president,” closer to the people.
The political novice ruffling feathers . . .
Yoon has also been at odds with the outgoing administration of President Moon Jae-in over the appointment of key political figures by Moon and a proposed pardon of former President Lee Myung-bak by Yoon – tensions that caused the longest delay in history for a meeting between outgoing and incoming presidents. Yoon and Moon, who finally met over dinner yesterday, will need to work together on pressing matters such as heightened tensions with North Korea after it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, global supply chain disruptions due to the war in Ukraine, and the approval of a supplementary budget to assist small businesses affected by the pandemic. It remains to be seen how the two will reach more specific agreements.
Sidelining social issues . . .
Yoon and the conservative People Power Party (PPP) are also moving forward with their campaign promise to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF). While several options are still on the table, including transferring MOGEF departments to other ministries, many worry that the erosion of MOGEF will inevitably weaken women’s rights and gender equality policies in South Korea. Meanwhile, PPP chairman Lee Jun-seok was criticized after he accused disability rights advocates of impeding the rights of non-disabled transit users by holding protests in subways. Lee also spoke in favour of cracking down on demonstrators with the use of force and warned of the “danger of minority politics,” which raised concerns over the incoming party’s divisive rhetoric and its stance toward vulnerable groups.