New rules encourage odd parties

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New rules encourage odd parties

With revisions to the electoral system taking effect with April’s general election that could help minor parties get into the National Assembly, the National Election Commission (NEC) is being swamped by registration requests from a host of odd political groups.

One such group, tentatively calling itself Rise Together, filed a request to run in April’s races with the NEC on Tuesday. The party’s chairperson, 34-year-old Kim Jae-seop, told the Joongang Ilbo he is disappointed with a political structure that fails to represent the youth - and is taking matters into his own hands.

Kim, who started an IT firm after graduating from Seoul National University, was active in politics since his college days, when he ran a debate club. Last year, he hosted a politics festival that lawmakers from four parties in the legislature attended.

“The10 people who make up our party are all regular company employees or students,” Kim said. “We felt that major parties were too focused on sprucing up their image when recruiting young people into their ranks.”

With regard to ideological leanings, Kim said many young Koreans no longer identify with either progressives or conservatives and that his party would focus on delivering practical benefits to the youth rather than focus on ideological matters.

On Tuesday, four new parties - including Rise Together - registered with the NEC. The other three parties included a party supposedly focused on workplace efficiency, a party for protecting the environment and an oddball group calling itself the Marriage Future Party.

The Marriage Future Party’s top priority is providing free marriage information for single youths to encourage wedlock in the country. The environment-based party was registered by Kwon Ki-jae, who said his party would operate independently of any ideology and would seek to create legislation to encourage more recycling of plastic bottles.

While odd groups popped up in past elections, the NEC this year is seeing a rise in registration requests due to electoral reforms passed into law by the ruling Democratic Party and four of its smaller allies on Dec. 27.

They include a new calculation method through which parties that fail to win enough constituency seats are compensated with proportional representatives - which benefits smaller parties that have little chance of winning district races. Of the 47 proportional representative seats in the legislature, 30 are to be apportioned using the compensatory method.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), which vehemently opposed the reforms, proclaimed it would create a separate satellite party tentatively called the Proportional Liberty Korea Party to exploit the new rules.

But the NEC ruled on Monday that no party would be allowed to use the prefix “proportional” in front of its existing name because it would confuse voters. Angered by the decision, the LKP is considering filing a suit with the Constitutional Court.

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