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South Korea ruling party wins election with parliamentary majority

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s left-leaning ruling party won an absolute majority in parliamentary elections, according to provisional results released Thursday.

The Democratic Party and its satellite party won 180 out of 300 parliamentary seats, up from the current 120, according to the National Election Commission. 

Meanwhile, the conservative opposition coalition won 103 seats.

The win marked the Democratic Party’s first landslide victory in 12 years, spurred by a spike in presidential approval ratings over the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wave of praise and record turnout

Wednesday’s parliamentary election saw the highest voter turnout since 1992, at a rate of 66.2%.Moon’s party was not tipped to win prior to the outbreak, due to concerns over a series of scandals, slow economic growth and dissatisfaction over his management of the country’s relationship with North Korea. 

Moon Jae-in (South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP)

South Korea’s coronavirus response saw support for President Moon Jae-in and his Democratic Party drastically increase

However, Moon has received widespread praise both at home and abroad for South Korea’s swift and effective response to coronavirus. The country’s methods of managing the spread of COVID-19 included carrying out extensive nationwide testing and implementing an intensive contact tracing program.  

“In line with the strict command the people gave us, we will put top priority on overcoming the national crisis of the coronavirus and economic declines,” former prime minister Lee Nak-yon, who ran the ruling party’s campaign, said in a televised address following the results.

A ruling party majority will help Moon carry out his initiatives over his last two years in office, including implementing a higher minimum wage and improving ties with North Korea. 

A socially distanced election

South Koreans hit the polls in what was also one of the first national elections to take place after the start of the pandemic. People at over 14,000 polling stations were required to take extra precautions, including wearing masks, having their temperatures checked and using gloves, while around 2,800 coronavirus patients voted by mail or in-person in special booths. 

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the country’s total number to 10,613, with a death toll of 229.

lc/se (Reuters, AFP)

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