Alliance benefits leftist party most
By Lee Tae-hoon
For the first time in Korean history, a leftist party will command more than 10 parliamentary seats in the unicameral legislature.
The minor opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) won 13 seats in Wednesday’s National Assembly elections to pick 300 lawmakers, elevating its status as the third largest parliamentary group.
The conservative minority Liberty Forward Party (LFP), which played a mediator role in the Assembly dominated by two political parties, won 18 seats in the previous parliamentary elections in 2008.
However, the right-wing LFP only managed to secure five seats this time.
Though the UPP failed to achieve its goal of becoming a parliamentary negotiating group, it will be able to cast votes in the National Assembly.
The law requires a political party to secure at least 20 seats to become a parliamentary negotiating group.
Political observers say that the UPP was the biggest beneficiary in the move to form a liberal alliance to try and check the ruling Saenuri Party.
Out of 246 electoral districts, the far-left leaning UPP managed to convince the main opposition Democratic United Party not to field candidates or won joint primaries in 34 constituencies, including Seogu-B.
UPP candidate Oh Byeong-yoon, a unified candidate from the alliance, would not have been able to win in the heavily contested electoral district in Gwangju without the support of the DUP against the Saenuri Party’s incumbent lawmaker Lee Jung-hyun.
The UPP has long suffered from low support due to its extreme pro-labor and pro-North Korean policies.
However, some DUP officials expressed strong regrets over their party’s decision to join hands with the left-leaning party, arguing that its alliance backfired in the elections.
They say the alliance prompted more conservative voters to show up to polling stations to deter the joint front from winning majority status in the Assembly.
They say not only conservative voters but also many moderates were against the DUP’s strategic alliance with the UPP, a party that sees the United States as an oppressor of South Korea and calls for the introduction of pro-North Korean socialist policies.
Meanwhile, Rhyu Si-min, a former welfare minister and co-leader of the UPP, apologized for the two-party political alliance’s failure to win a majority in the Assembly.
“The political alliance lost the National Assembly elections,” he said. “We failed to meet the expectations of the people.”
Rhyu failed to become a proportional representative. The UPP placed him 15th on its list of proportional representatives. The party won only six proportional seats.