It’s hard to think of a major world leader who’s had a rockier first six months than South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol.
Since Yoon took office in May, Asia’s fourth-biggest economy slowed markedly, the won plunged and North Korea unleashed a torrent of provocations. Now, his government is under massive fire following a deadly pre-Halloween crowd crush that killed 156 people.
Gallup Korea puts Yoon’s approval rating at 29%, the danger zone for any leader in Seoul promising bold structural reform – or, indeed, any significant policy.
It’s too soon to declare Yoon’s five-year term dead on arrival after just 182 days. Yet the ex-prosecutor who only just squeaked by leftwing firebrand Lee Jae-myung in the March election has not displayed any obvious capacity for a political reboot sizable enough to steady his fast-listing presidency.
When Yoon beat Lee, political scientist Ahn Byong-jin at Kyung Hee University in Seoul saw it as less of a vote for the future than wanting to “punish” the outgoing Moon Jae-in government, which voters viewed as “incompetent and hypocritical.”