2020 South Korean legislative election
All 300 seats in the National Assembly
151 seats needed for a majority
|Turnout||66.2% ( 8.2 pp)|
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South Korea's 21st legislative elections were held on 15 April 2020. All 300 members of the National Assembly were elected, 253 from first-past-the-post constituencies and 47 from proportional party lists. They were the first elections held under a new electoral system. The two largest parties, the liberal Democratic Party and the conservative United Future Party, set up new satellite parties (also known as bloc parties) to take advantage of the revised electoral system. The reforms also lowered the voting age from 19 to 18.
The Democratic Party and its satellite, the Platform Party, won a landslide victory, taking 180 of the 300 seats (60%) between them. The Democratic Party alone won 163 seats — the highest number by any party since 1960. This guarantees the ruling liberal alliance an absolute majority in the legislative chamber, and the three-fifths super-majority required to fast-track its procedures. The conservative alliance between the United Future Party and its satellite Future Korea Party won only 103 seats, the worst conservative result since 1960.
300 members of the National Assembly were elected in the 2016 elections, of whom 253 (84%) were elected from single-member constituencies on a first-past-the-post basis, and 47 (16%) from closed party lists through proportional representation (PR) by the Hare quota largest remainder method. To win seats through proportional representation, parties needed to pass an election threshold of either 5 single-member districts or 3% of the total list vote.
Electoral reform process
An election reform bill was introduced in February 2019, which would change the allocation of PR seats to a hybrid of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) and mixed member majoritarian systems (also known as the Additional Member System and Parallel Vote, respectively).
The legislative process utilised the 85th Article of the National Assembly law, called the 'Fasttrack' system, which does not require agreement between all parties. This was opposed by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and Bareunmirae Party member Yoo Seong-min. The decision by Sohn Hak-kyu, leader of the Bareunmirae, to approve the Fasttrack, and his dismissal of his fellow standing committee member Oh Shin-hwan, stirred legal controversy. The Prosecution Service declared that Sohn's actions did not merit criminal charges.
The Liberty Korea Party physically disrupted the National Assembly Secretariat in April 2019, to interrupt the Fastrack legal maneuver. The Prosecution Service then opened an investigation into the violence in the National Assembly, and possible violation of the National Assembly law. Several leading members of the LKP were indicted, including leader Hwang Kyo-ahn and then-floor leader Na Kyung-won. The criminal charges included violence and violation of order. Several Democratic Party members were also charged. [needs update]
The bill was passed on 27 December 2019, despite physical obstruction in the Assembly voting area by the Liberty Korea Party.
The National Assembly continues to have 300 seats, with 253 constituency seats and 47 proportional representation seats, as in previous elections. However, 30 of the PR seats were assigned on the new compensatory basis, while 17 PR seats continue to use the old parallel voting method. The voting age was also lowered from 19 to 18 years old, expanding the electorate by over half a million voters.
In response to the new system, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party set up a satellite party (called the Future Korea Party) to maximise the number of PR seats it would gain. The Democratic Party responded by setting up their own satellite party, the Platform Party. In both cases, the main party stood candidates only in the constituency seats, whilst the satellite party stood only in the PR lists. This meant that the satellite party would receive the maximum number of compensatory seats, regardless of how over-represented the parent parties were in the constituencies. Smaller parties did not set up satellites, because the advantage only appears if the party is over-represented in the constituencies.
Restrictions on candidates
Candidates for the National Assembly were required to pay a fee of 15,000,000 South Korean won (US$14,000 as of December 2017), and under the National Security Act the Constitutional Court may block the registration of "left-wing", "pro–North Korean" parties, though this provision has not affected recent elections.
Date and electorate
The 2020 election for the National Assembly was held on 15 April, in accordance with Article 34 of the Public Official Election Act, which specifies that Election Day for legislative elections is on "the first Wednesday from the 50th day before the expiration of the National Assembly members term of office". Eligible voters were required to be registered and at least 18 years old on the day of the election, and to show an approved form of identification at the polling place. Polls on Election Day were open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Korea Standard Time.
Since 2009, voters have been entitled to vote from overseas. However, due to COVID-19 quarantine measures, voting from over 50 foreign countries was restricted or cancelled. Voters could also cast early votes at any polling stations in Korea without prior notice.
Parties and candidates
Both major parties split to take advantage of the new electoral system, with the main party only running in the constituencies, and the satellite party only running for the proportional seats. They are listed together in the table below, which is sorted by the number of seats prior to the election.
Parties not represented in the 2016 National Assembly but that planned[needs update] to run candidates include:
- The Green Party Korea (녹색당), a green political party.
- The Labor Party (노동당), a democratic socialist political party.
- The Women's Party, a feminist political party.
- The Basic Income Party, a single-issue party split from the Labor Party (노동당) to campaign for universal basic income.
- Future Party, a youth-led center-left to left-wing political party founded in 2017, focusing more on youth voting, outreach, and campaigning.
- National Revolutionary Dividends Party, a third position populist and anti-corruption political party.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
The election was held during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had both practical impacts on the conduct of the poll, and political impacts on voters' choice of parties to support. In February 2020, South Korea had the second-most cases of any country, after China. By election day, South Korea had recorded over 10,000 cases and 200 deaths. The country had introduced one of the world's most comprehensive programmes of COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and quarantine of suspected cases. As a result, the case fatality rate in South Korea was 1.95%, lower than the global average of 4.34%, and the country avoided widespread lockdowns that were implemented elsewhere. Electoral officials declined to postpone the election; South Korea has never postponed any election, even the 1952 election which was held during the Korean War.
Special arrangements were required to ensure social distancing during the election and prevent further infection. Voters were required to wear face masks and stay at least 1 metre (3 ft) apart when queueing or casting their votes. Before entering the polling station, each voter was checked for fever using a thermometer, required to use hand sanitiser, and issued with disposable plastic gloves. Any voter with a body temperature greater than 37.5 °C (99.5 °F) was taken to a segregated polling booth, which was disinfected after each use. The thousands of voters who had been placed in self isolation due to potential infections were allowed to vote, but only after the polling stations had been closed to all other voters, and provided they were asymptomatic. About 26% of votes were cast in advance, either by post or in special quarantine polling stations which operated on 10 & 11 April.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the Democratic Party had been expected to struggle in the election: opinion polls in 2019 had predicted it would win 37-41% of the constituency votes. The government's response to the outbreak was praised by the World Health Organization and received widespread support in South Korea. The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party, was not up for re-election, but his response to the pandemic was popular and benefited his party in the legislative election.
After the election people were concerned over new normal of COVID restrictions that government called "everyday quarantine".
The Democratic Party won 163 constituency seats, while their satellite Platform party won 17 proportional representation seats, giving the alliance a total of 180 seats in the 300-seat assembly, enough to reach the three-fifths super-majority required to fast-track assembly procedures and "do everything but revising the Constitution at the parliament." This was the largest majority for any party since democracy was restored in 1987. The United Future Party and their satellite Future Korea Party won 84 constituency and 19 proportional seats respectively; their total of 103 seats (34.3%) was the worst conservative result since the 1960 legislative elections. Commentaries have reported this result as a realigning election for South Korea.
A constituency of Gangnam District in Seoul was won by United Future Party candidate Thae Ku-min, an ex-North Korean diplomat formerly known as Thae Yong-ho. While the seat was considered a safe conservative seat, it nevertheless marks the first time in history a North Korean defector had won a constituency seat in the assembly. United Future Party Hwang Kyo-ahn, who served as prime minister from 2015 to 2017 and acting president during Park Geun-hye's suspension from 2016 to 2017, was defeated by the Democratic Party candidate Lee Nak-yeon, who served as prime minister from 2017 to 2020.
In addition to the voter turnout, the number of women elected also reached its highest number, 59 composing 19% of the whole assembly.
Moreover, the number of people serving as the parliamentarian for the first time composed more than half of the whole assembly - the first to do so in 16 years. Also, there is no seven-term parliamentarian and only one six-term parliamentarian who assumed the Speaker of the National Assembly. Number of parliamentarians elected who served more than 3 terms also significantly reduced from 51 in the previous election to 33.
Following the elections, the newly formed proportional parties Platform Party and Future Korea Party started the process of being absorbed into The Democratic Party of Korea and the United Future Party respectively. There were calls to revise the new electoral law prior to integration, which the reverse effect from its intent of increasing small party representation as more seats were won by the big parties.
|Democratic Party / Platform Party||14,345,425||49.91||163||9,307,112||33.36||6||11||17||180||+57|
|United Future Party / Future Korea Party||11,915,277||41.45||84||9,441,520||33.84||7||12||19||103||–19|
|Open Democratic Party||–||–||–||1,512,763||5.42||1||2||3||3||New|
|Christian Liberty Unification Party||7,663||0.02||0||513,159||1.84||0||0||0||0||0|
|Our Republican Party||47,603||0.16||0||208,719||0.75||0||0||0||0||New|
|National Revolutionary Dividends Party||208,324||0.72||0||200,657||0.72||0||0||0||0||New|
|Pro-Park New Party||1,884||0.00||0||142,747||0.51||0||0||0||0||New|
|Dawn of Liberty||–||–||–||101,819||0.36||0||0||0||0||New|
|Future Democratic Party||–||–||–||71,297||0.26||0||0||0||0||New|
|Green Party Korea||–||–||–||58,948||0.21||0||0||0||0||0|
|Korea Economic Party||–||–||–||48,807||0.17||0||0||0||0||0|
|Let's Go! Korea||–||–||–||34,012||0.12||0||0||0||0||0|
|Small and Medium-sized Self-employed Peoples' Party||–||–||–||19,444||0.07||0||0||0||0||0|
|Republic of Korea Party||–||–||–||19,246||0.07||0||0||0||0||New|
|Korean Welfare Party||625||0.00||0||19,159||0.07||0||0||0||0||0|
|United Democratic Party||512||0.00||0||17,405||0.06||0||0||0||0||0|
|New People's Participation Party||–||–||–||15,998||0.06||0||0||0||0||New|
|Awakened Citizens' Solidarity Party||–||–||–||14,242||0.05||0||0||0||0||New|
|National New Political Party||65||0.00||0||12,376||0.04||0||0||0||0||0|
|Let's Go! Environmental Party||–||–||–||11,040||0.04||0||0||0||0||New|
|Future of Chungcheong Province Party||1,148||0.00||0||10,841||0.04||0||0||0||0||0|
|Inter-Korean Unification Party||–||–||–||10,833||0.04||0||0||0||0||New|
|Let's Go! Peace and Human Rights Party||–||–||–||9,245||0.03||0||0||0||0||0|
|Greater Korea Party||–||–||–||4,855||0.02||0||0||0||0||0|
|Basic Income Party||4,658||0.02||0||–||–||–||–||–||0|
|Grand National Party||1,228||0.00||0||–||–||–||–||–||0|
|People's Democratic Party||63||0.00||0||–||–||–||–||–||0|
|Source: NEC, NEC, Naver|
Results by city/province
|Region||United Future||Democratic||Justice||People||Open Democratic||Other||Ind.||Total|
|Seats||Vote %||Seats||Vote %||Seats||Vote %||Seats||Vote %||Seats||Vote %||Seats||Vote %||Seats|
Following the elections, some defeated United Future Party candidates claimed that the election had been fraudulent due to the fact that leads held early in the count were wiped out when the early and postal votes (which favoured the Democratic Party) were counted. However, other UFP members criticised the accusations, saying that there was no proof. Although the claims were widely regarded to be conspiracy theories, they led to protests labelled the Black Umbrella Protests, where the protesters used umbrellas to mirror the Hong Kong protests. A large protest went ahead on 15 August despite a government ban on protests due to COVID-19. The protest organizers claimed there were more than a million participants. The August protest resulted in a sharp rise of COVID-19 infection in South Korea over the August to September period, which caused the Democratic Party to call for the arrest of Jeon Kwang-hoon who had been its organizer. He was arrested without bail on 7 September, under the charge of violating the government ban on protest. There were also 120 election lawsuits filed at the South Korean Supreme Court, some of which are ongoing as of 2021.
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