South Korean Conservatives Score Upset Parliamentary Election Victory

Park Geun-hye (R), interim leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, and party members smile as they watch a television report on an exit poll of the parliament elections at the party's headquarters in Seoul, April 11, 2012.
Park Geun-hye (R), interim leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, and party members smile as they watch a television report on an exit poll of the parliament elections at the party's headquarters in Seoul, April 11, 2012.

South Korea's ruling conservatives have scored an upset victory in a nationwide legislative election. The New Frontier (Saenuri) Party, along with minor parties on the right, are to retain control of the National Assembly for the next four years.  

Economic issues, a spying scandal, and personalities outweighed national security concerns in South Korea's fiercely fought parliamentary election.

An alliance of liberal parties failed to wrest control of the 300-seat National Assembly from the conservatives.

North Korea made no secret of its preference for an opposition victory here, saying voters should choose “peace and democracy” and “deal a heavy blow to pro-U.S. warlike forces.”

A professor of international politics at Chung-ang University, Lee Cho-won, says South Korean voters have become immune to such rhetoric from Pyongyang.

Lee says both of the major parties in South Korea also did not raise the issue of the North's impending missile launch, thus it had no significant impact on the election's outcome.

The opposition attacked President Lee Myung-bak, who cannot run for re-election in December, for widening the gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged since taking office in 2008. It also criticized his administration's support for the recently ratified trade agreement with the United States.

Another election issue: a still-unfolding political scandal implicating the presidential Blue House in spying on political opponents, civic groups, labor activists and journalists.

The administration responded that 80 percent of the cases dated to the previous presidency of Roo Moo-hyun, whose supporters are now in the opposition.

The main opposition Democratic United Party found its image damaged after nominating a candidate with a track record of highly offensive satirical comments.

On a popular Internet radio show, the candidate, Kim Yong-min, had called for top U.S. officials to be raped or murdered and suggested kidnapping and executing American troops in South Korea.  He has called for the eradication of the country's powerful Protestant church and offended other constituencies, including the elderly.

Kim lost his bid to gain a seat in the National Assembly.

Voters were able to make separate selections for individual candidates and parties for proportional representation seats.

The election gives a boost to the New Frontier Party, hoping to retain the presidency. It changed its name from the Grand National Party in February, in a bid to revitalize its image.

This is the first time in two decades the legislative and presidential elections are being held in the same year in a country known for its volatile political environment.

The current front-runner to succeed President Lee is the leader of the New Frontier Party, Park Geun-hye. She is the daughter of former president Park Chung-hee, whose 18 years of autocratic rule ended when he was assassinated in 1979 by his own intelligence chief.

Possible strong challengers from the left include former President Roh's chief of staff, lawyer Moon Jae-in. He won a legislative seat in the polling in Busan, the country's second largest city.

Eyes are also on the well-known entrepreneur turned academic, Ahn Chul-soo. He has yet to declare whether he will run for president.

Ahn's only involvement in this election was in a video urging people to vote.

Holding stuffed animal toys and playing off the popularity of the Angry Birds video game, Ahn says it is time for the good birds to throw themselves at the castle to get at the solid establishment's bad pigs.

Recent public-opinion polls show Ahn and Moon as the two most formidable challengers to Park among all major potential candidates.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs