Photo: Moon Jae-in (left) and First Lady Kim Jeong-suk at a rally on the final day of Moon's office. Credit: KTV.
By any measure, former president Moon Jae-in 문재인, whose term ended on May 9, left the Blue House 청와대 as the most popular president in South Korea’s democratic history. His average approval rating in the regular weekly Gallup Korea poll was 52%; RealMeter, 51.9%. Moon’s average approval rating in the last quarter of his presidency, in the Gallup Korea poll, was 42%, significantly outpacing the second place Roh Moo-hyun 노무현’s final approval rating of 27%.
Moon is the first president in South Korean history to have an average approval rating that is higher than the share of votes earned in the presidential election, which was 41.1%. He is also the first president in South Korean history to have a final week approval rating, 45%, that is higher than the initial approval rating of the incoming president Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열, whose approval was 41% in the Gallup Korea poll.
Moon’s approval peaked with the initial honeymoon period, the inter-Korean reconciliation that pulled South Korea from the precipice of a war, and the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His approval sank below average in his second year with the Cho Kuk affair (see previous coverage, “The Cho Kuk Affair”) and the LH scandal that triggered the grievances over the rising cost of real estate. (See previous coverage, “The LH Scandal.”)