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South Korean President Moon Jae-in takes hit in polls with North Korea overture

January 26, 2018 GMT

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has taken a significant hit to his popularity in the wake of his diplomatic overture promising warmer ties with North Korea, a new poll shows.

Although still popular, the liberal Mr. Moon’s approval rating fell below 60 percent for the first time since his election last spring, according to a new Realmeter poll, the Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo reported.

The poll found that 59.8 percent of South Koreans polled over three days earlier this week think Mr. Moon is doing a good job a 6 percentage point decline in just a week. Some 35.6 percent of respondents said they thought the president was doing a bad job, a 6.3 percent jump from the previous period. In more conservative regions of the country, Mr. Moon’s favorability rating fell some 16 points.

Many more hawkish conservatives in the South have criticized the government’s new openness to Pyongyang. Mr. Moon seized on a New Year’s offer from North Korea leader Kim Jong-un for an ease of tensions on the peninsula, even as North Korea and the Trump administration remain locked in a sharp war of words over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

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The opening has included a high-profile invitation for North Korean athletes to compete alongside the South’s team at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Pollsters say the negative turn in the numbers reflects an end to Mr. Moon’s honeymoon as president, doubts about the North Korea policy, and a recent government crackdown on speculation in Bitcoin that sent the virtual currency’s value plummeting on world markets.

The poll of 1,509 adults was conducted Jan. 22 to Jan. 24.