South Korea's opposition set for landslide victory in parliamentary election | World News - Hindustan Times
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South Korea's opposition set for landslide victory in parliamentary election

AFP |
Apr 11, 2024 05:01 AM IST

The outcome, if confirmed, will at the very least leave Yoon as a lame duck for the three remaining years of his term in office.

South Korea's opposition was heading towards a landslide victory in Wednesday's parliamentary elections, exit polls indicated, in a major blow to President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party, watches election results at his district office in Incheon, South Korea(Bloomberg)
Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party, watches election results at his district office in Incheon, South Korea(Bloomberg)

The outcome, if confirmed, will at the very least leave Yoon as a lame duck for the three remaining years of his term in office.

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However a super majority that would open the door for the opposition to impeach the president looked out of reach as tallies continued into the early morning Thursday.

Yoon's People Power Party (PPP) and its partner party were expected to hang on to over 100 of the National Assembly's 300 seats, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, denying the Democratic Party, led by Lee Jae-myung, of the 200 needed for the super majority.

Also in play was the new Rebuilding Korea party, led by former justice minister Cho Kuk, which capitalised on discontent with the two main parties to pick up a projected 12-14 seats.

"The people have won, the will to judge the Yoon Suk Yeol administration is very clear," Cho said after the vote, local media reported.

On the campaign trail, he vowed to make Yoon "first a lame duck, then a dead duck".

"The figures today show the strong anger of people at Yoon for his two-year governance," political analyst Yum Seung-yul told AFP.

"What if he won't change even with this stunning election outcome? I think there will be even more public anger and that worries me."

- Lee's revenge -

Yoon beat Lee in South Korea's closest-ever presidential election in 2022 and has taken a tough line with the nuclear-armed North while improving ties with Washington and former colonial occupier Japan.

But Lee, while fending off a slew of graft probes he says are politically motivated, has secured revenge with the election result following a bruising and polarising campaign.

"I'll watch the people's choice with a humble heart," Lee said after the vote, local media reported.

From the start of his presidency, Yoon has been unpopular, with ratings hitting the low 30s, and the PPP's lack of control of the National Assembly stymying his socially conservative legislative agenda.

This includes planned healthcare reforms -- that are backed by voters but have sparked a crippling strike by doctors -- and a pledge to abolish the ministry of gender equality.

PPP leader Han Dong-hoon said that "exit polls are disappointing... We will watch the vote count", the Yonhap reported.

- No babies -

On Yoon's side were shifting demographics, with voters aged 60 and older now outnumbering those in both their 20s and 30s in a country with the world's lowest birth rate.

Younger Koreans have been put off politics by a political class dominated by older men who ignore their concerns.

Many say this was underlined by the horrific 2022 Halloween crowd crush in Seoul that killed more than 150 mostly young people.

The younger generation is also struggling economically, with cut-throat competition in education, fewer job opportunities and sky-high housing costs.

"There is definitely less interest in this election among the people around me than last time. I think it is because they feel rather disappointed," business owner Kim Yong-ho, 24, said outside a polling station in Seoul's Gwangjin district.

The tone of the campaigning has also put many voters off, lacking in substantive policy debate and marked instead by shrill calls to "imprison" Lee or "punish" Yoon.

"I am truly ashamed of our country's politics and government," Kim Do-kyung, 47, an activist for migrant women and their children, told AFP.

This has been accompanied by hate speech and disinformation online that experts worry could lead to more attacks like the one on Lee in January and another weeks later.

- Onions -

The DP favours a less hawkish approach towards Pyongyang, and Lee has made a number of pro-China remarks. One doctored video showed him bowing to a statue of Mao Zedong.

It has also latched onto a gaffe by Yoon last month about the "reasonable" cost of green onions, a staple in Korean cooking that has soared in price.

The humble vegetable became a popular prop at DP rallies, and the election commission even banned voters from bringing them to polling stations.

Official results are expected later Thursday.

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