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Smart Take | Implications of Opposition's "Landslide" Victory in Korea's Elections

April 11, 20242:07

In parliamentary elections in South Korea, the opposition-led, progressive Democratic Party (DPK) gained 170 seats in the 300-seat parliament, resulting in a significant defeat for President Yoon and his People Power Party (PPP). Kayla Orta, Senior Program Associate for the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center, provides insights into why South Koreans voted the way they did, the impact the results will have on the remainder of Yoon’s presidency, and the implications for the president’s foreign policy agenda.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    So what's interesting is that we're going to be seeing the South Korean president go into the next three years of his presidency, having an opposition-led national assembly, meaning that there will be three years where the president's policies will face additional scrutiny and may have a difficulty in face challenges passing through or for legislation domestically. 

    The current ruling party, the People People's Power Party of South Korea now has lost seats. They did not hold the majority prior to this election, but they have lost seats, indicating in some senses a lack of confidence or reduced confidence by the South Korean populace and that party's ability to focus on domestic politics and people focus policies domestically. 

    Interesting to note that, you know, these elections come about two years after this South Korean presidential election, which was one of the closest presidential elections in Korean history, the current incumbent president won by less than 1% of the vote. And what's interesting to note additionally, is that right now the opposition leader was the rival candidate of that presidential period. So we're already seeing aftershocks, you could say, or waves coming off of that presidential period that indicate the partisanship that's quite strong in the country. 

    There's possibility that there will be implications for South Korean President Yoon's foreign policy agenda and most importantly, on his docket and high on his policy agenda has been the US, South Korea, Japan trilateral relationship. We saw this partnership kick off last August with the Camp David summit in Washington, D.C. and there's talk about an additional summit sometime later this year. And so what's really interesting is that this has been heralded as an international success, and there's a lot of momentum within the three governments to push this forward. Unfortunately, has also faced some domestic criticism. And with this new outcome of the National Assembly elections, there's a possibility that this type of foreign policy engagement could be held at risk or even maybe considered at a higher level of criticism through the opposition party.


Kayla Orta

Kayla Orta

Senior Associate, Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

Kayla Orta is the Senior Associate at the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy. Former U.S. Department of Defense NSEP Boren Scholar, her expertise lies in U.S.-Indo-Pacific and U.S.-Korean foreign relations. Having lived in South Korea, she is professionally fluent in Korean and publishes extensively on Korean domestic and foreign affairs.

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Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more