Changing Face of Korean Politics

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Changing Face of Korean Politics

The Grand National Party (GNP) has won a majority in the National Assembly in the sixteenth general election. This triumph was obtained amidst a flurry of ruling party obstacles including the announcement of the South-North summit made toward the end of the campaign period. The GNP occupied 132 seats before the political crisis in February, which resulted in numerous congressmen leaving the GNP to establish new political parties. In spite of these problems, the GNP narrowly regained their previous position in the National Assembly.
The Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) achieved an undeniable victory in the Seoul metropolitan area, and put up a good fight in the Chungchong region. The MDP gained 12 new seats in the National Assembly, with a new total of 115 seats. The MDP is moving ever closer to its goal of becoming the most powerful political party in the nation.
Due to their respective successes during the general election, both the MDP and the GNP can be said to be victorious.
The outcome of the April 13 general election has rearranged the current political landscape into a system of two major, competing political parties. The results of this election put the final nail in the coffin of the so-called "three Kims era" in Korean politics, which has dominated the nation since 1988.
The big losers in the election are the Democratic People's Party (DPP) and the United Liberal Democrats (ULD). The DPP, a splinter party of the GNP, made a miserable showing, winning only two seats in the National Assembly. Apparently, the tacit support of former President Kim Young-sam doomed the fledgling party.
Meanwhile, the ULD (the former coalition partner of President Kim's MDP) saw its support dwindle, even in its traditional stronghold of Chungchong. Thus, it is now impossible for the ULD to exercise any influence over the MDP or the GNP in the National Assembly. The ULD formerly possessed 55 seats in the National Assembly, but failed to win the 20 seats required to become a congressional floor negotiating group at the April 13 elections. Former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil's political career might possibly be at an end due to the ULD's lack of success in the election; in which case, President Kim Dae-jung is the only surviving member of the so-called three Kims era.
As the three Kims era comes to an end, a new generation of political leaders will move to the forefront of Korean politics. MDP election campaign leader Rhee In-je plans to consolidate power in Chungchong, since the MDP "has become the representative of the Chungchong area."
Thus, it looks as though Lee Hoi-chang could be well on his way to becoming the next Korean president. Korea's political structure will be re-organized based on the results of the general election. The MDP as well as the GNP, the current congressional majority, failed to win 137 seats, which comprise half of the total congressional seats. President Kim may try to make a political alliance with the ULD, in order to maintain the stable operation of national politics, particularly North Korean policies and plans like the June summit.
On the other hand, it is expected that Kim Jong-pil will renew his political struggle against the ruling party. According to ULD sources, Kim Jong-pil looks not at all favorably upon a political alliance with the MDP.
Lee Hoi-chang of the GNP will implement political strategies intended to prevent GNP congressmen from being lured away from the GNP and into the ruling party. The GNP also plans to bring up alleged illegal election practices such as illegal funding and unfair government intervention.
Political restructuring is inevitable if Korea's political situation is to become and remain stable.

by Kim Doo-woo

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