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[Election 2024] 3 focal points of general election

How big will liberal presence be, who among big shots will join Assembly and how will Cho Kuk’s new party fare ?

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : April 10, 2024 - 15:40

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People Power Party candidate Han Dong-hoon (left), Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap) People Power Party candidate Han Dong-hoon (left), Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap)

As South Koreans vote Wednesday to elect all 300 members of the National Assembly, there are some crucial questions and pivotal issues to keep an eye on.

Here, The Korea Herald highlights three focal points before the results come in.

1. How big will the liberal presence be?

The election's likely victor appears clear: the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea. The question is, how big will their win be?

The liberal party held onto an absolute majority position in the previous parliament, after securing 180 out of 300 seats in the 2020 elections.

Entering the vote on April 10, the main opposition aims for a minimum of 153 seats -- two seats more than a majority -- although some are cautiously optimistic about replicating 2020's electoral landslide.

Hopeful projections even picture the panliberal force encompassing the Democratic Party and its minor allies reaching the two-thirds threshold needed to amend the Constitution, override presidential vetoes and even impeach the president.

An opposition bloc with 180 seats would be a big enough threat to President Yoon Suk Yeol and his ruling People Power Party, as with such a presence, the party can single-handedly enact virtually any bill.

But if the ruling People Power Party wins enough seats to prevent a majority opposition, President Yoon will gain the momentum needed to advance his agenda during the remaining three years of his term.

2. Which big shots will win entry to Assembly?

Four prominent figures are vying for parliamentary seats, with the outcomes of their races poised to have a significant potential impact on their future paths.

This is Lee Jun-seok’s fourth attempt to become a lawmaker, following three consecutive defeats. The former youngest leader of the People Power Party, who rose to the leadership at the age of 36, was ousted from the party in 2022. He now hopes be a thorn in the side of the president he helped elect before his ouster, by succeeding in his bid to become a lawmaker.

Stakes are high for political titan Lee Nak-yon, who has served five terms in National Assembly and was also a provincial governor and the nation’s prime minister. He bolted from the main opposition and launched the New Future Party. But his entry seems to be on a challenging course now. He is facing off against Min Hyung-bae from the Democratic Party, who held a big lead over Lee in a recent poll.

Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung, who narrowly lost to President Yoon in the 2022 presidential election, is competing against Won Hee-ryong, a former land and transport minister. A victory for Lee would solidify his status as the next leading presidential contender. However, a defeat could deal a humiliating blow.

A former physician, CEO of AhnLab and three-term lawmaker, Ahn Cheol-soo finds himself at a crossroads in his political career as he campaigns in the Bundang district of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. His race against Democratic Party candidate Lee Kwang-jae is too close to call, with a recent poll showing Lee at 49 percent and Ahn trailing at 43 percent.

3. How will Cho Kuk’s new party fare?

Also grabbing attention is the number of seats the new Rebuilding Korea Party will secure, having just been established last month by former Minister of Justice Cho Kuk.

Multiple recent polls have indicated that the party’s proportional representation could surpass that of the People Future Party, the proportional representation wing of the People Power Party. They also suggest the party’s support ranging from 20 percent to the low 30s, fueling speculations that the party could win up to 15 seats.

The Rebuilding Korea Party has positioned itself to gain votes by championing the ambitious target of securing “200 seats for the broader opposition bloc.”

However, the party's future momentum hangs in the balance, as the final verdict from the Supreme Court on Cho's involvement in a university corruption scandal remains pending. If Cho is convicted, the Rebuilding Korea Party stands to lose a substantial driving force.