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South Korea President Moon's approval rating drops on Olympics furor

FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during his New Year news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating has fallen to a four-month low, a poll showed on Friday, after a public backlash over a decision for South and North Korea to field a joint ice hockey team at next month’s Winter Olympics.

Moon’s approval rating dropped to 67 percent, Gallup Korea said in a press release, down from last week’s 73 percent and the second-lowest ever after the rating stood at 65 percent in late September last year.

North and South Korea started rare dialogue last week over the participation of North Korea in the Winter Games, and in addition to the joint ice hockey team, the two Koreas agreed on Wednesday to march under a unity flag at the Olympics.

The president’s specific moves to bring together the two Koreas at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have sparked a sharp public backlash that has gone beyond his traditional conservative detractors to include his main support base of young South Koreans.

Friday’s poll showed Moon’s approval rating among people in their 20s and 30s fell to 75 percent and 82 percent respectively, dropping by six percentage points and seven percentage points compared to the previous week’s rating.

Gallup Korea also said approval ratings for Moon had dropped markedly among those in their 40s and below compared to those in their 50s and older. The latter are not part of Moon’s main support base and tend to be more conservative in South Korea’s political landscape.

Moon was elected to office in May last year with a high approval rating after his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office over a corruption scandal.

The latest poll of 1,005 adults, was conducted this week from Tuesday to Thursday this week and has a margin of error of plus minus 3.1 percent.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Christine Kim and Michael Perry