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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 5)

President Yoon Suk Yeol will skip his New Year’s press conference again. The presidential office said he will instead have a one-on-one interview with KBS, which will be aired on Wednesday after the public broadcaster edits the exclusive interview. President Yoon already supplanted a New Year’s press conference with an exclusive interview with the Chosun Ilbo, a conservative newspaper in Korea, last year. Political pundits attribute it to his inclination to choose a friendly media outlet rather than wrestling with tough questions he may face in a press conference.

The president has avoided a live open press conference for 18 months since the last one in August 2022 on the 100th day of his presidency, not to mention any QandA sessions with journalists since November last year. Former presidents like Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in were heavily criticized for “lacking communication with the media,” but they had more press conferences or briefings than Yoon.

Political analysts often cite the need for President
Yoon to shun uncomfortable questions from reporters about his wife’s controversial reception of a luxury handbag from a pastor after her husband’s election as president. We understand the president’s wish to not disclose the embarrassing episode involving his wife. But that is not the way the president should take.

As the majority Democratic Party (DP)’s push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the suspicion over the first lady already became a hot potato ahead of the April 10 parliamentary elections, it could be better if the president can tell the truth behind the case and seek public understanding. The controversy will not easily subside unless the president makes clear his position on the issue.

According to a recent Gallup Korea poll, the president’s approval rating fell to 29 percent while his disapproval rating soared to 63 percent. His approval rating has dropped below 30 percent for the first time in the second week of April 2023. Primary reasons for his plunging approval rat
ing were the economy, people’s livelihoods and inflation, but a “lack of communication with the people,” “his unilateral ways of governance” and “issues related to the first lady” were also behind his plummeting approval rating.

President Yoon alone cannot solve economic problems, but he can address the issues over his communication style and his wife if he wants to. The president needs public support to lead the country where he wants to. If Yoon wants to take an easy path, he cannot recover his approval rating. He must listen to various voices open-mindedly for a successful presidency. Otherwise, he cannot expect his approval rating to rebound.

Source: Yonhap News Agency