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Korea - 2020 - National Assembly Election

General elections for the 21st National Assembly is set to be held on April 15. These legislative races represent the third showdown between the ruling and opposition camps since former President Park Geun-hye was ousted from office in March 2017. They will also serve as a barometer for the Moon Jae-in administration, now past its halfway point, and ultimately determine the political landscape ahead of the 2022 presidential election.

Ahead of the general elections in April, rival parties disagreed on the proposed adoption of mixed-member proportional representation. The proposed electoral system would allow minor parties to win additional seats if they receive more party ballots than their district candidates' individual victories. Four political parties and a group of lawmakers preparing to launch a new party have reached agreement on a fast-tracked electoral reform bill, paving the way for the National Assembly to pass the contentious legislation. The group, known as the "four plus one" consultation body, is made up of the ruling Democratic Party, the Bareunmirae Party, the Justice Party, the Party for Democracy and Peace and the group of lawmakers.

The five sides on 23 December 2019 agreed to keep the current 300 National Assembly seats, with 253 going to the winners of elections in constituencies and the remaining 47 to proportional parliamentary seats. Of those 47, up to 30 seats will be distributed under a mixed-member proportional representation scheme in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voter support for parties. The five sides decided not to introduce a controversial system that would allow candidates who lost by a narrow margin in elections in constituencies to run for proportional seats.

In December 2019, as a coalition of ruling and minor opposition parties sought to pass fast-tracked revisions to the nation's election laws Monday night, the main opposition immediately launched a filibuster. Rep. Joo Ho-young - Liberty Korea Party, said "The Justice Party created the unprecedented so-called mixed member proportional representation system to get more seats and the Democratic Party wants to approve the creation of the anti-corruption investigator by trading the two bills.... "

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) considered April 15 as a means to complete the so-called "candlelight revolution." DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said their victory will allow President Moon to successfully complete his reform drive and lay the groundwork for the next liberal government. Although the ruling party expected to lose proportional representation seats due to the newly-adopted mixed-member proportional system, it was striving to win more local constituency seats to secure a majority of the 300-seat National Assembly. In a bid to highlight its reform-mindedness, the DP sought to recruit rookie politicians from various fields in society. By January 2020, about a dozen incumbent representatives, including the party's chair, decided bow out of the race.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) was also striving to win a majority to challenge the Moon administration and turn the tide. LKP chair Hwang Kyo-ahn made clear they need to win not only to survive, but to save the country from turmoil. To try and shore up its base, the LKP is seeking to join forces with a new conservative group led by former leader of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party Yoo Seong-min, as well as those close to former presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo, who announced his return to politics. The main opposition was also planning internal reforms, including a personnel shakeup and a new candidate selection system.

As for the Bareunmirae Party, which lost eight representatives who defected to form a new conservative group, it was hoping to hang on to its third-largest party status by revamping its election system and solidifying unity with other minor camps.

The National Election Commission announced 29 January 2020 a set of guidelines on how 18-year-olds will participate in the upcoming general elections. The guidelines came as a legal revision aimed at lowering South Korea's voting age from 19 to 18 will take effect with the April 15th elections, making high school seniors eligible to cast ballots for the first time ever. According to the election watchdog, among those who were born in 2002, only those born on April 16th or earlier will be eligible to vote during the forthcoming general elections. Those born in 2002 who plan to join election campaigns for the April general elections will have to make sure they are already past their 18th birthday when they first get involved in such activities. Those eligible to do so will also be allowed to become members of political parties and donate political funds but will be banned from organizing speeches, meetings and rallies to promote certain parties or candidates to multiple high school students. They will also be blocked from setting up placards that bear the names of parties or candidates or handing out related promotional leaflets within their school campuses.

On 02 April 2020 South Korea kicked off official campaigning for an April 15 general election when voters will choose 300 members of the National Assembly. A central issue was President Moon Jae-in's response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. South Korea confirmed 9,976 coronavirus cases as of Thursday. But the country had recently seen a slowdown of new infections allowing the campaign to go ahead Thursday as scheduled.

The polls are held every four years. This year they're seen as a midterm assessment of Moon's administration. His five-year term ends in 2022. The election was expected to be a contest between the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and the largest opposition group, the United Future Party. The latest polls showed Moon's approval rating had risen, reaching 55 percent for the first time in 16 months. The ruling party planned to appeal to voters by stressing the measures they are taking to contain the outbreak.

The opposition criticized the Moon administration's economic stimulus measures as being insufficient. They are trying to win voter support with a call for bigger relief. Amid the pandemic, campaigning will not be the same as usual. Candidates are refraining from holding gatherings and shaking hands with voters. Some pundits are saying it could result in low voter turnout.

In terms of the economy, the Democratic Party pledged to keep pushing for innovative growth and the United Future party plans to repeal income-led growth policies. The Democratic Party will prioritize fostering new industries, with a focus on the so-called 'BIG 3' of system semiconductors, future cars, and bio-health. It also planned to help SMEs flourish, especially those in the manufacturing sector. It will push for firms to employ full-time workers for permanent tasks and will eliminate discrimination against non-regular workers.

The United Future Party planned to change the minimum-wage system and increase flexibility over employees' maximum working hours. It will cut red tape for businesses and the stock market.

Regarding security and unification, both parties pledged to work toward peace on the Korean peninsula. But the Democratic Party plans to do so by promoting its new Northern and Southern policies, turning South Korea's military into the 5th best in the world, and strengthening diplomatic relations with the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia. The United Future Party focused on strengthening defense ties with allies such as the U.S. and Japan, and wants to play the leading role in the denuclearization talks with North Korea. Lastly, the welfare sector…

The Democratic party pledged to create an equal society while the United Future Party pledges to create a community that can satisfy everyone. The Democratic party wished to reduce the burden of tuition for university students and make society safe from digital sex crimes, domestic violence, and stalking.

Both parties discussed how they would tackle sex crimes as the nation was recently shocked by a digital sex crime that had under-age female victims. The United Future Party plans to increase punishment for those convicted of sex crimes against minors. They also plan to provide financial support for pets' medical costs.

But making pledges is a lot easier than carrying them out.

In 2019 President Moon was heavily criticized for Korea's economic decline and the political scandal of his former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. In early 2020, Moon was criticized for allowing travelers from China to bring coronavirus to Korea. But by the time of the election, it had all changed 180 degrees. The Korean media praised the Moon administration as leading and winning the global battle against COVID-19. Some described this as 'coronavirus nationalism,' the idea that the Korean nation is a global leader against coronavirus, and must all unite behind the president.

The 66 percent voter turnout, the highest in 28 years despite the pandemic, was a key contributing factor. Earlier on, analysts were divided, but considerable number of analysts were saying that because of the fear of coronavirus, perhaps, older people may actually shun and avoid voting, but... the turnout this time is much higher than 58 last time, and 54 time before that.

South Korea's ruling Democratic Party clinched a landslide victory in the general elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The DP's campaign chief Lee Nak-yon defeated his main opposition rival Hwang Kyo-ahn in Seoul's Jongno district as well, forcing the United Future Party leader to resign. Combined with its satellite Together Citizens’ Party [a "satellite party" it created to win proportional representative seats], the ruling party won a total of 180 seats, or a three-fifth majority, in the 300-member National Assembly. The main opposition and its satellite Future Korea Party (FKP) won only 103 seats, leading chairperson Hwang to announce his resignation.

The minor opposition Justice Party won a total of six seats with the minor opposition People's Party winning three. The Open Democrats, another pro-Moon Jae-in party, also won three seats. But with the three-fifth parliamentary majority already secured, the ruling DP does not need to form a political alliance with minor oppositions to push for key reform bills against the conservative UFP, save for constitutional revision, which requires a two-thirds majority.

Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon - Democratic Party campaign chief, said: "I feel the overwhelming responsibility with all my heart. The public entrusted the government and the ruling party with the task of overcoming the national disaster the COVID-19 outbreak has brought and coping with the global crisis. The ruling party will take the job and fulfill its responsibility. I would like to thank the citizens of Jongno who gave the job of lawmaker to this insufficient man. I will sincerely carry out the duties of a lawmaker. I also would like to thank the public for giving many seats to the Democratic Party. We will do our utmost to overcome the COVID-19 disaster and will not neglect other state tasks." Defeating rival Hwang Kyo-ahn of the conservative main opposition United Future Party(UFP) in Seoul's Jongno district by more than 18 percentage points, Lee now emerged as the strongest presidential candidate in the 2022 race.

Since their stunning election victory in April, President Moon and his party repeatedly undermined the rule of law, ignored the procedures put in place to ensure the separation of powers, and made controversial moves to further their populist agenda and help their allies escape accountability. After winning the election with a margin unprecedented in South Korea's democratic history, which enabled it to dominate all 17 standing committees of Parliament, the DP transformed the National Assembly into its own law-passing agency. It rammed through numerous contentious laws, without subcommittee review or any other consultative procedure required under the National Assembly Act.

The governing party also railroaded a series of housing laws in an attempt to stabilise skyrocketing real estate prices in the Seoul metropolitan area, where half of the country's population lives. The measures not only failed to bring the housing market under control, but also drew public anger, as they created more hurdles for middle-class first-time-buyers under the age of 40 - the main support group for the government.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:49:35 ZULU