06/09/2008, 00.00
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Seoul, president Lee's popularity tumbles

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Protests over American meat, the project for the "great canal", and the lack of dialogue with the opposition are losing points for the new Korean leader, who gets only 17 favourable votes out of 100.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - After the protests over the importing of American meat, the marches against the project for the "great canal", and the lack of dialogue with the opposition, the popularity of president Lee Myung-bak has plummeted.  This is the result of the latest national poll, taken by the newspaper Korea Times, which with a 3% margin of error assigns about 17 favourable votes out of 100 to the policies of the new South Korean leader.

According to 52.2% of those surveyed, the most serious error of the new administration is its commercial agreement with the United States, which provides for a massive reduction in taxes and various other incentives for imported beef.  The population, which is afraid that the beef could be infected with "mad cow" disease, has been protesting against the agreement for weeks.

The second error is the project for the "great canal", which provides for the creation of an "aquatic highway" to link Seoul and Busan: in practice, this would be a 540-kilometre channel that would connect the rivers Han and Nankdong.  According to the critics, the plan endangers potable water resources and the ecological equilibrium of the country.

Finally, those interviewed criticise the lack of cooperation with the parliamentary opposition: the new government, composed of figures considered "ill-suited for their roles", is not dialoguing with the democrats.  According to the population, this situation "can only have a negative impact".

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