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Anticipated triumph of the opposition in the legislative elections in South Korea

Photo: Jung Yeon-je Agence France-Presse Lee Jae-myung's Democratic Party and its allies won as many as 197 seats out of 300, according to exit polls.

Kang Jin-kyu – Agence France-Presse and Claire Lee – Agence France-Presse in Seoul


  • Asia

South Korea's main opposition party triumphed in Wednesday's parliamentary election, with exit polls indicating it increased its majority, a blow to conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The Democratic Party (center-left) of Lee Jae-myung – seriously injured three months ago in a knife attack – and its allies won up to 197 seats out of 300, according to these polls, against 156 during the last legislature.

Mr. Yoon's People Power Party (PPP) and an allied party are expected to obtain between 85 and 99 seats, instead of 114.

All opposition parties combined might even have obtained a “super-majority” of 200 out of 300 seats, enough to override President Yoon's veto, or even remove him from office.

One of these parties is Rebuild Korea, founded a few weeks ago by former justice minister Cho Kuk, targeted by accusations of corruption that he denies, and which, according to the polls, would have obtained between 12 and 14 seats.

“The people won”

“The people have won, the desire to try Yoon Suk Yeol is very clear,” Mr. Cho said after the vote, local media reported.

These polls were conducted by the three main South Korean television channels among some 360,000 voters across the country.

These results augur a complicated end of mandate for President Yoon, narrowly elected in 2022 against Mr. Lee, and whose lack of parliamentary majority has already prevented him from implementing his program on the right.

Since coming to power, Mr. Yoon has pursued a tough policy towards North Korea while strengthening his country's alliance with the United States and moving closer to Japan, a former colonial power with which there are numerous historical quarrels.

But according to analysts, he has disappointed in terms of the economy, the fight against inflation and the reduction of inequalities.

Since the start of his presidency, Yoon Suk Yeol's popularity has never taken off, often remaining around 30%.

Lee Jae-myung, mired in a series of corruption investigations that he considers motivated by political considerations, can now savor his revenge, obtained at the end of an ultra-polarized and hateful electoral campaign. The result of the election puts him in a good position to try his luck again in the 2027 presidential election, as everyone believes he intends to do.

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On the eve of the election, he called for “voting to prevent the political force which betrayed the people from obtaining a parliamentary majority”.

At the National Assembly in Seoul, where lawmakers and other officials gathered Wednesday evening to watch the results, the mood was somber among the PPP ranks, as shouts of joy and protests Applause rang out from the Democrats.

Demographics, however, worked in favor of Mr. Yoon, voters aged over sixty, known to be more conservative, being more numerous than those in their twenties or thirties. The latter say they are largely discouraged by a political class dominated by elderly men who ignore their concerns such as the cost of housing or job insecurity.

Many believe that this failing was blatantly highlighted during the tragic Halloween stampede in Seoul in October 2022 which left more than 150 dead, mainly young people. The tragedy was attributed to a cascade of negligence on the part of the authorities.

“Imprison” and “punish”

“People around me are much less interested in these elections than last time. I think it's because they feel quite disappointed,” noted Kim Yong-ho, 24, a business owner, outside a polling station in Seoul's Gwangjin district. .

The tone of the campaign also turned off many voters. Substantive political debate has been nonexistent, replaced by calls to “jail” Mr. Lee or “punish” Mr. Yoon, hate speech and online misinformation that experts fear could lead to more attacks physical injuries like the one Mr. Lee suffered in January.

“I’m really ashamed of our country’s politics and government,” breathes Kim Do-kyung, 47, an activist for migrant women and their children.

The first official results are expected later Wednesday.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116