South Korean President acknowledges policy failures after two years in office

President Yoon Suk Yeol conceded his administration’s shortcomings after his party’s election defeat, emphasizing the urgency to address South Korea’s low birth rate through a newly announced ministry.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol conceded on Thursday that his administration’s efforts to enhance citizens’ lives had fallen short, recognizing the significant defeat of his ruling party in last month’s election as a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with his two-year tenure.

In response to the pressing issue of the nation’s record-low birth rate and rapidly ageing population, President Yoon announced the establishment of a new government ministry as part of a major policy initiative.

President Yoon emphasized during his first news conference in 21 months the urgency of addressing the low birth rate, stating that they would leverage all available national capabilities to tackle what he described as a national emergency.

The defeat suffered by his People Power Party in the April 10 vote prompted calls for a shift in leadership style and policy direction to salvage Yoon’s presidency, which has yet to reach its halfway point.

Acknowledging the public’s assessment of his administration’s performance as falling short, Yoon vowed to improve communication with both the public and parliament. However, his support ratings have plummeted to a dismal 21% in recent polls.

Amid opposition parties’ demands for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged misconduct by the first lady, Yoon defended her, labeling the calls as politically motivated attacks.

Meanwhile, the decision to establish a ministry to address the declining birth rate and ageing population comes as South Korea’s fertility rate, already the lowest globally, continued its downward trajectory in 2023.

Data from Statistics Korea revealed that the average number of expected babies per South Korean woman hit a record low of 0.72, significantly below the 2.1 replacement rate necessary for population stability. Concerns over issues like housing and education costs have contributed to this trend, exacerbating the demographic challenge facing the nation.