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The Peninsula

Opposition Party’s Unorthodox Strategy Lost Amidst Virus Concerns

Published February 13, 2020
Author: Korea View
Category: South Korea, China

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • Despite criticism from the ruling Minjoo Party and the minority Justice Party, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) launched a satellite party to gain more proportional seats in the upcoming legislative election.
  • The LKP has also criticized the government’s decision to deploy USD 300,000 of medical supplies to some affected cities in China.
  • Neither of these actions appear to have advanced the opposition party in the polls. For instance, only 43.9 percent of LKP supporters who were surveyed supported the launch of the satellite party.

Implications: While South Korean legislative elections are usually determined by the public’s outlook on political issues (such as the fairness of a party’s primary system), the coronavirus has shifted the focus for the upcoming contest to the government’s handling of the ongoing public health threat. This may deflect some criticism from the LKP, which has launched a satellite party to win more proportional seats in the National Assembly – a move that has proven unpopular with both the general electorate and party supporters. Simultaneously, the LKP’s critique of the Moon administration’s decision to send medical supplies to China does not appear to resonate with the average citizenry.

Context: The LKP is in a defensive position after back-to-back losses in the 2017 presidential election and the 2018 by-elections. The opposition party has ceded several key legislation to the ruling Minjoo party in the past few months, including the new budget and new rules lowering the voting age. The ruling party also faces the difficult task of overcoming a field crowded by both liberal and conservative splinter parties and securing a majority in the 300-seat chamber. The consequence of not securing a majority of seats would be greater challenges to President Moon Jae-in passing key bills that are central to his platform in the remaining 2 years of his term in the Blue House.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Photo from the Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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