In a historic, unanimous ruling Friday, South Korea’s constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil, worsened an already-serious national divide and prompted calls for sweeping reforms. It was a stunning fall for Park, the country’s first female leader and the daughter of a dictator who rode a lingering conservative nostalgia for her father to victory in 2012, only to see her presidency descend into scandal. The ruling by the eight-member panel opens her up to possible criminal proceedings, and makes her South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office since democracy came in the country in the late 1980s.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Korea.
The political scandal that led to the suspension of President Park Gyun-hye is boosting political engagement among younger South Koreans, who are calling for voting rights. Many high school students throughout the country are politically energized these days, and they want more of a say. “We want to elect the country’s leader ourselves in order to create a better society for us all,” says a student at one protest. The corruption scandal involving the president and her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil has kept Boo Seok-woo busy with a youth group that’s engaged in social issues.
The voting age is likely to be lowered to 18 for the 2017 presidential election. The New Conservative Party for Reform (NCPR), created by lawmakers who left the Saenuri Party, said Wednesday that it will seek to lower the voting age from 19 to 18 and apply it to the next election. With all three opposition parties supporting an increase in the number of eligible voters, there is a high possibility that the Election Law could be revised during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in January. If revised, those who are 18, currently high school students, will be able to vote in the presidential election, which could take place earlier than scheduled.
“We shall lower the voting age to 18 before the next presidential election. Among OECD member states, Korea is the only nation stipulating voting rights at 19,” floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho said in a party meeting. The liberal party, the largest in South Korea’s unicameral parliament controlling 128 of the 300 seats, will push to revise the election law to lower the age limit and grant voting rights to compatriots living overseas, he said. Currently, 33 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development grant suffrage to those 18 years and older, with Austria at the age of 16.
While lawyers desperately tried to restore the impeached South Korean president’s powers, politics advanced without her Tuesday as parties and potential candidates postured for elections that could take place in just months. Dozens of lawmakers split from the conservative ruling party and likely will try to create a party fielding outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as its presidential candidate. Ban’s potential rivals reacted by questioning his presidential credentials and touting their own ideas, including significant policy changes in regard with relations with nuclear-armed North Korea and allies United States and Japan.
South Korea’s ruling conservative party suffered an unexpected defeat in a parliamentary election on Wednesday, local media said early on Thursday, based on election commission data, in a stinging blow to president Park Geun-hye. The loss by Park’s Saenuri party, which had been expected to regain a majority, will mean her government will face more deadlock in the national assembly as she tries to push through her legislative agenda to boost a sluggish economy. The defeat is also likely to dent prospects for the party to field a winning candidate in the presidential vote scheduled late next year to succeed Park for a single five-year term.
South Korean voters went to the polls Wednesday to elect to representatives to the National Assembly. President Park Geun-hye’s ruling conservative Saenuri Party is expected to maintain a majority in the unicameral parliament. Recent polls have shown strong public support for Park’s tough policies to respond to the growing North Korean nuclear threat, including cutting the last cooperative inter-Korean tie by closing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Project following the Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January, imposing increased sanctions, and increasing military readiness to respond to any provocations.
One of the many weird, yet unavoidable things in Korean politics is that many people with dubious pasts and low ethical standards are allowed to seek elected office. One need look no further than the candidates for the April 13 parliamentary election, in which 1,102 candidates are running — 944 for 253 constituency seats and 158 for 47 seats allotted for proportional representation. Of the total, 38 per cent have at least one count of criminal record. This ratio goes up to 41 per cent for those who are contesting constituency seats. The ratio is almost twice as high as that for the current 19th National Assembly, which attests to the fact that the qualification bar for parliamentary candidates has been lowered.
Rival parties are entering campaign mode for the April 13 general election, launching planning committees following the wrap-up of candidate nominations marred by factional feuds. With just 17 days before the polls, each party has set lofty goals in the parliamentary race. The ruling Saenuri Party aims at securing a majority of seats in the 300 unicameral Assembly, while the Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) is seeking to win 130 seats. The minor opposition People’s Party is expecting 20 seats to form a negotiation body. However, political pundits say that they all face major hurdles in the race, with a number of variables rendering the election highly unpredictable, including a possible alliance of opposition forces. How independent candidates who quit the ruling party after its nomination conflicts will affect voter sentiment also remains a key variable.
Candidates for the April 13 general election began registering with the National Election Commission (NEC), Thursday. Held every four years, the upcoming election will be the first since the National Assembly agreed new constituency boundaries, in line with a Constitutional Court ruling in 2014. A total of 300 lawmakers, including 253 voted in through direct ballots held in their respective constituencies, will gain seats for the next Assembly session. The remaining 47 proportional representation seats will be allocated to parties relative to the overall number of votes they receive. Each candidate will be given an election number once they register. The NEC will accept registration until 6 p.m., Friday, at its local offices nationwide.