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Korea - Politics

April 9, 2008 - National Assembly Election

In April 2008 Lee Myung-bak's Grand National Party (GNP) won 151 of 299 seats, giving them a much slimmer majority than expected. The opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) did better than anticipated, winning 82 seats. Lee Hoi-chang's Liberal Forward Party (LFP) with 19 seats and the Pro-Park Alliance with 14 were the real surprises, confirming Lee Hoi-chang's regional base in Choongcheong Provinces and Park's appeal in the Yeongnam region. A record 25 independents won; 15 of these are former GNP lawmakers. The elections were marked by record-low turnout (46 percent) as party infighting and a short campaign season left most voters apathetic and unmotivated to vote.

South Korea's ruling conservatives scored an upset victory in a nationwide legislative election April 9, 2008. Voters were able to make separate selections for individual candidates and parties for proportional representation seats. The Saenuri Party won 153 seats in the 300 seat National Assembly while the opposition Democratic United Party and its coalition partner, the United Progressive Party, won 140 seats combined, with the Democratic United Party taking 127. The minor opposition Unified Progressive Party was projected to win as few as 10 and as many as 21 seats, in fact taking 13.

The New Frontier (Saenuri) Party, along with minor parties on the right, retained control of the National Assembly for the next four years. Economic issues, a spying scandal, and personalities outweighed national security concerns in South Korea's fiercely fought parliamentary election. An alliance of liberal parties failed to wrest control of the 300-seat National Assembly from the conservatives.

The opposition attacked President Lee Myung-bak, who cannot run for re-election in December 2012, for widening the gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged since taking office in 2008. It also criticized his administration's support for the recently ratified trade agreement with the United States. Another election issue: a still-unfolding political scandal implicating the presidential Blue House in spying on political opponents, civic groups, labor activists and journalists. The administration responded that 80 percent of the cases dated to the previous presidency of Roo Moo-hyun, whose supporters were in the opposition.

The main opposition Democratic United Party found its image damaged after nominating a candidate with a track record of highly offensive satirical comments. On a popular Internet radio show, the candidate, Kim Yong-min, had called for top U.S. officials to be raped or murdered and suggested kidnapping and executing American troops in South Korea. He has called for the eradication of the country's powerful Protestant church and offended other constituencies, including the elderly. Kim lost his bid to gain a seat in the National Assembly.

News of former President Roh Moo-hun's suicide on 23 May 2009 sparked intense feelings of anger directed at President Lee Myung-bak. Roh's sympathizers accused Lee of conducting a politically motivated investigation into allegations that Roh had received more than US$6 million in bribes either while in office or immediately after leaving the Blue House, and that the prosecutors had literally hounded Roh to death. On 30 April 2009 Roh underwent the humiliation of being summoned to the prosecutor's office for questioning about his knowledge of money received by his wife and children.

The New Frontier Party, hoping to retain the presidency, changed its name from the Grand National Party in February 2012 in a bid to revitalize its image.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2016 12:24:20 ZULU