A South Korean decision to allow North and South Korean athletes to march together under a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may be costing President Moon Jae-in support.
A Gallup Korea poll released Jan. 26 indicates approval ratings for Moon, whose support had not dipped below 70 percent since he assumed office less than a year ago, now stands at 64 percent, local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
Moon’s nosedive in popularity comes at a time when North Korea may be taking advantage of the reconciliatory mood in Seoul, and calling for an “independent” unification that could split the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The United States may be making it clear to North Korea its tactics are not working.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Joint Chiefs of Staff director, said suspending drills that occur regularly is not an option.
“We haven’t suspended, we’re de-conflicting during the period of the Olympics and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics,” McKenzie said Jan. 25.
Senior South Korean and U.S. officials are expected to confirm the plans in Hawaii, with a ministerial-level meeting on the timing of post-Olympic drills and their scale, according to South Korean news network MBN.
But South Korea’s tough military stance on the North, which has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program, has not contributed to Moon’s standing in the polls.
According to Gallup, Moon’s approval rating has declined for two consecutive weeks, and decisions to unify the women’s ice hockey team and march in unison at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics are responsible for the fall.
Among South Koreans in their 20s, the approval rating dropped from 75 to 68 percent.
Other factors for the decline include a perception Moon’s administration is “retaliating” against past administrations and punishing conservatives, like former President Lee Myung-bak, according to the survey conducted this week.