Politics of South Korea

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Politics of the Republic of Korea

대한민국의 정치 (Korean)
Emblem of South Korea.svg
Polity typeUnitary presidential
constitutional republic
ConstitutionConstitution of the Republic of Korea
Legislative branch
NameNational Assembly
Meeting placeNational Assembly Building
Presiding officerPark Byeong-seug, Speaker of the National Assembly
Executive branch
Head of State and Government
CurrentlyYoon Suk-yeol
AppointerDirect popular vote
NameState Council
Deputy leaderPrime Minister
HeadquartersYongsan, Seoul
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of South Korea
Supreme Court
Chief judgeKim Myeong-soo
Constitutional Court
Chief judgeYoo Nam-Seok
Separation of powers and the election system of South Korea

The politics of the Republic of Korea take place in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of state, and of a multi-party system. The government exercises Executive power and Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts and a Constitutional Court. Since 1948, the constitution has undergone five major revisions, each signifying a new republic. The current Sixth Republic began with the last major constitutional revision in 1987.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated South Korea a "full democracy" in 2020.[1][2]

National government[edit]

Executive branch[edit]

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Yoon Suk-yeol People Power Party 10 May 2022
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum Democratic Party of Korea 14 May 2021

The head of state is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a single five-year[3] term. The president is Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and enjoys considerable executive powers.

The president appoints the prime minister with approval of the National Assembly, as well as appointing and presiding over the State Council of chief ministers as the head of government. On 12 March 2004, the executive power of then president Roh Moo-hyun was suspended when the Assembly voted to impeach him and Prime Minister Goh Kun became an Acting President. On 14 May 2004, the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment decision made by the Assembly and Roh was reinstated.

On 10 May 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol succeeded Moon Jae-in as president of South Korea.

Legislative branch[edit]

The National Assembly (국회, 國會, gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 253 members in single-seat constituencies and 47 members by proportional representation. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is the largest party in the Assembly.

Judicial branch[edit]

The South Korean judiciary is independent of the other two branches of government, and is composed of two different highest courts. Inferior ordinary courts are under the Supreme Court, whose justices are appointed by the president of South Korea with the consent of the National Assembly. In addition, the Constitutional Court oversees questions of constitutionality, as single and the only court whose justices are appointed by the president of South Korea by equal portion of nomination from the president, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court Chief justice. South Korea has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

Political parties and elections[edit]

South Korea elects on national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by the people. The National Assembly (Gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 253 members in single-seat constituencies and 47 members by proportional representation.

The main two political parties in South Korea are the liberal Democratic Party of Korea (lit. "Together Democratic Party", DPK) and the conservative People Power Party (PPP), formerly the United Future Party (UFP). The liberal camp and the conservative camp are the dominant forces of South Korean politics at present.

Parties in the 21st National Assembly
Group Floor leader Seats % of seats
Democratic Park Hong-keun 167 57.39%
People Power Kweon Seong-dong 108 37.11%
Justice 6 2.06%
Basic Income 1 0.34%
Period Transition 1 0.34%
Independents 8 2.75%
Total 291 100.0%


  1. Negotiation groups can be formed by 20 or more members.

Political nature[edit]

South Korea's political history has always been prone to splits from and merges with other parties. One reason is that there is a greater emphasis around the 'politics of the individual' rather than the party; therefore, party loyalty is not strong when disagreements occur. The graph below illustrates the extent of the political volatility within the last 10 years alone. These splits were intensified after the 2016 South Korean political scandal.

This graph traces the recent origins of all six main political parties currently in the Republic of Korea, all of which have either split from or merged with other parties in the last four years. They have emerged from four main ideological camps, from Left to Right: Progressive (socialist), liberal, centrist, and conservative.

Latest elections[edit]

Presidential election[edit]

Yoon Suk-yeolPeople Power Party16,394,81548.56
Lee Jae-myungDemocratic Party of Korea16,147,73847.83
Sim Sang-jungJustice Party803,3582.38
Huh Kyung-youngNational Revolutionary Party281,4810.83
Kim Jae-yeonProgressive Party37,3660.11
Cho Won-jinOur Republican Party25,9720.08
Oh Jun-hoBasic Income Party18,1050.05
Kim Min-chanKorean Wave Alliance17,3050.05
Lee Gyeong-heeKorean Unification11,7080.03
Lee Baek-yunLabor Party9,1760.03
Kim Gyeong-jaeNew Liberal Democratic Union8,3170.02
Ok Un-hoSaenuri Party4,9700.01
Valid votes33,760,31199.10
Invalid/blank votes307,5420.90
Total votes34,067,853100.00
Registered voters/turnout44,197,69277.08
Source: Election results

Legislative election[edit]

Political pressure groups and leaders[edit]

  • Federation of Korean Industries
  • Federation of Korean Trade Unions
  • Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
  • Korean National Council of Churches
  • Korean Traders Association
  • Korean Veterans' Association
  • National Council of Labor Unions
  • National Democratic Alliance of Korea
  • National Federation of Farmers' Associations
  • National Federation of Student Associations

Administrative divisions[edit]

One Special City (Teukbyeolsi, Capital City), six Metropolitan Cities (Gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), nine Provinces (Do, singular and plural) and one Special Autonomous City (Sejong City).

Foreign relations[edit]

South Korea is a member of the AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MINURSO, NAM (guest), NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMOGIP, UNOMIG, UNU, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Democracy Index 2021: the China challenge". Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 2022-02-16.
  2. ^ "Japan, South Korea And Taiwan Upgraded To "Full Democracies" In The EIU's 2020 Democracy Index". Scoop News Group. Retrieved 20 March 2021.

    "S. Korea Reclassified as "Full Democracy" on EIU's Global Democracy Index 2020". KBS World. Retrieved 20 March 2021.

  3. ^ "Korea, South". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 30 May 2017.

External links[edit]