The day after the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, South Korea made its own history as the liberal Democratic Party won landslide victories in nationwide local elections. Moon Jae-in’s party won 14 of the 17 contested provinces, as well as major cities including Seoul and Busan.

The ruling Democratic Party also gained more seats in the National Assembly by winning 11 of 12 by-elections. Notable among those who won their gubernatorial or mayoral races are:

  • Park Won-soon for a third term as mayor of Seoul;
  • Lee Jae-myung as governor of Gyeonggi Province; and
  • Kim Kyung-soo, who narrowly won the South Gyeongsang Province governorship, a seat historically dominated by right-wing parties.
South Korea's Local Election exit poll projections: Blue represents the liberal Democratic Party; Red represents the conservative Liberty Korea Party; Grey represents independent

The defeat of the conservative parties have forced their chiefs to resign. Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the ultra-conservative Liberty Party and Yoo Seong-min, co-chair of the center-right Bareunmirae Party, both resigned from their posts one day after the elections.

The right-wing parties, which took a hard hit after last year’s ouster of former President Park Geun-hye, have never recovered. Myongji University’s political science professor Shin Yul attributed the conservative opposition’s defeat to its hardline stance of opposing the ruling Democratic Party at all cost “for the sake of opposition.” He said in an interview with the The Korea Herald:

Regardless of the agenda, the conservative party strongly clashed with the ruling party and the government, and the series of events highlighted the party’s reputation as an interest group, not a political representative of the people.

The surge in South Korea’s support for the Democratic Party reflects widespread public approval of President Moon’s peace-building efforts and is a major boost for his administration as it prepares to resume engagement with North Korea.

 

By ZoominKorea staff

 

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