Politics of South Korea

The politics of the Republic of Korea take place in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the president is the head of state, and of a multi-party system. The government exercises executive power and legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. Since 1948, the constitution has undergone five major revisions, each signifying a new republic. The current Sixth Republic began with the last major constitutional revision in 1987.

Politics of the Republic of Korea

대한민국의 정치 (Korean)
Polity typeUnitary presidential
constitutional republic
ConstitutionConstitution of the Republic of Korea
Legislative branch
NameNational Assembly
TypeUnicameral
Meeting placeNational Assembly Building
Presiding officerPark Byeong-seug, Speaker of the National Assembly
Executive branch
Head of State and Government
TitlePresident
CurrentlyYoon Suk-yeol
AppointerDirect popular vote
Cabinet
NameState Council
LeaderPresident
Deputy leaderPrime Minister
AppointerPresident
HeadquartersYongsan, Seoul
Ministries18
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of South Korea
Supreme Court
Chief judgeKim Myeong-soo
Constitutional Court
Chief judgeYoo Nam-Seok
Separation of powers and the election system of South Korea

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated South Korea a "full democracy" in 2020.[1][2]

National government

Executive branch

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Yoon Suk-yeol People Power Party 10 May 2022
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo Independent 22 May 2022

The head of state is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a single five-year[3] term. The president is Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces and enjoys considerable executive powers.

The president appoints the prime minister with approval of the National Assembly, as well as appointing and presiding over the State Council of chief ministers as the head of government. On 12 March 2004, the executive power of then President Roh Moo-hyun was suspended when the Assembly voted to impeach him and Prime Minister Goh Kun became an Acting President. On 14 May 2004, the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment decision made by the Assembly and Roh was reinstated.

On 10 May 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol succeeded Moon Jae-in as president of South Korea.[4]

Legislative branch

The National Assembly (국회, 國會, gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 253 members in single-seat constituencies and 47 members by proportional representation. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is the largest party in the Assembly.

Judicial branch

The South Korean judiciary is independent of the other two branches of government, and is composed of two different highest courts. Inferior ordinary courts are under the Supreme Court, whose justices are appointed by the president of South Korea with the consent of the National Assembly. In addition, the Constitutional Court oversees questions of constitutionality, as single and the only court whose justices are appointed by the president of South Korea by equal portion of nomination from the president, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court Chief justice. South Korea has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

Political parties and elections

South Korea elects on national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by the people. The National Assembly (Gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 253 members in single-seat constituencies and 47 members by proportional representation.

The main two political parties in South Korea are the liberal Democratic Party of Korea (lit. "Together Democratic Party", DPK) and the conservative People Power Party (PPP), formerly the United Future Party (UFP). The liberal camp and the conservative camp are the dominant forces of South Korean politics at present.

Parties in the 21st National Assembly
Group Floor leader Seats  % of seats
Democratic Park Hong-keun 169 56.5%
People Power Kweon Seong-dong 115 38.5%
Justice 6 2.0%
Basic Income 1 0.3%
Transition Korea 1 0.3%
Independents 7 2.3%
Total 299 100.0%

Notes:

  1. Negotiation groups can be formed by 20 or more members.

Political nature

South Korea's political history has always been prone to splits from and merges with other parties. One reason is that there is a greater emphasis around the 'politics of the individual' rather than the party; therefore, party loyalty is not strong when disagreements occur. The graph below illustrates the extent of the political volatility within the last 10 years alone. These splits were intensified after the 2016 South Korean political scandal.

This graph traces the recent origins of all six main political parties currently in the Republic of Korea, all of which have either split from or merged with other parties in the last four years. They have emerged from four main ideological camps, from Left to Right: Progressive (socialist), liberal, centrist, and conservative.

Presidential election

CandidatePartyVotes%
Yoon Suk-yeolPeople Power Party16,394,81548.56
Lee Jae-myungDemocratic Party of Korea16,147,73847.83
Sim Sang-jungJustice Party803,3582.38
Huh Kyung-youngNational Revolutionary Party281,4810.83
Kim Jae-yeonProgressive Party37,3660.11
Cho Won-jinOur Republican Party25,9720.08
Oh Jun-hoBasic Income Party18,1050.05
Kim Min-chanKorean Wave Alliance17,3050.05
Lee Gyeong-heeKorean Unification11,7080.03
Lee Baek-yunLabor Party9,1760.03
Kim Gyeong-jaeNew Liberal Democratic Union8,3170.02
Ok Un-hoSaenuri Party4,9700.01
Total33,760,311100.00
Valid votes33,760,31199.10
Invalid/blank votes307,5420.90
Total votes34,067,853100.00
Registered voters/turnout44,197,69277.08
Source: Election results

By region

Major candidates

Breakdown of votes by region for candidates with at least 1% of the total votes.

Region Yoon Suk-yeol Lee Jae-myung Sim Sang-jung
Votes % Votes % Votes %
Seoul 3,255,747 50.6 2,944,981 45.7 180,324 2.8
Busan 1,270,072 58.3 831,896 38.1 47,541 2.2
Daegu 1,199,888 75.1 345,045 21.6 31,131 1.9
Incheon 878,560 47.1 913,320 48.9 51,852 2.8
Gwangju 124,511 12.7 830,058 84.8 14,865 1.5
Daejeon 464,060 49.6 434,950 46.4 25,445 2.7
Ulsan 396,321 54.4 297,134 40.8 21,292 2.9
Sejong 101,491 44.1 119,349 51.9 6,780 2.9
Gyeonggi 3,965,341 45.6 4,428,151 50.9 205,709 2.4
Gangwon 544,980 54.2 419,644 41.7 25,031 2.5
North Chungcheong 511,921 50.7 455,853 45.1 26,557 2.6
South Chungcheong 670,283 51.1 589,991 45.0 31,789 2.4
North Jeolla 176,809 14.4 1,016,863 83.0 19,451 1.6
South Jeolla 145,549 11.4 1,094,872 86.1 16,279 1.3
North Gyeongsang 1,278,922 72.8 418,371 23.8 33,123 1.9
South Gyeongsang 1,237,346 58.2 794,130 37.4 52,591 2.5
Jeju 173,014 42.7 213,130 52.6 13,598 3.4
Total 16,394,815 48.6 16,147,738 47.8 803,358 2.4
Source: National Election Commission

Minor candidates

Breakdown of votes by region for candidates with less than 1% of the total votes.

Region Huh
Kyung-young
Kim
Jae-yeon
Cho
Won-jin
Oh
Jun-ho
Kim
Min-chan
Lee
Gyeong-hee
Lee
Baek-yun
Kim
Gyeong-jae
Ok
Uh-ho
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
Seoul 36,540 0.6 5,615 0.1 4,657 0.1 3,829 0.1 1,907 0.0 1,333 0.0 1,571 0.0 1,791 0.0 844 0.0
Busan 21,990 1.0 2,799 0.1 1,867 0.1 1,071 0.0 942 0.0 575 0.0 546 0.0 527 0.0 352 0.0
Daegu 13,941 0.9 938 0.1 2,824 0.2 892 0.1 619 0.0 472 0.0 344 0.0 451 0.0 261 0.0
Incheon 16,733 0.9 1,593 0.1 1,378 0.1 1,116 0.1 758 0.0 511 0.0 508 0.0 449 0.0 276 0.0
Gwangju 6,138 0.6 1,366 0.1 112 0.0 434 0.0 455 0.0 188 0.0 242 0.0 140 0.0 92 0.0
Daejeon 8,593 0.9 958 0.1 588 0.1 566 0.1 395 0.0 258 0.0 223 0.0 227 0.0 138 0.0
Ulsan 9,234 1.3 2,180 0.3 685 0.1 375 0.1 333 0.0 234 0.0 308 0.0 185 0.0 109 0.0
Sejong 1,594 0.7 181 0.1 121 0.1 100 0.0 88 0.0 66 0.0 50 0.0 48 0.0 23 0.0
Gyeonggi 63,207 0.7 8,768 0.1 5,897 0.1 4,151 0.0 3,192 0.0 1,927 0.0 1,919 0.0 1,990 0.0 1,124 0.0
Gangwon 11,668 1.2 1,260 0.1 824 0.1 582 0.1 560 0.1 525 0.1 323 0.0 262 0.0 181 0.0
North Chungcheong 11,165 1.1 1,083 0.1 779 0.1 614 0.1 653 0.1 698 0.1 385 0.0 288 0.0 213 0.0
South Chungcheong 14,169 1.1 1,586 0.1 899 0.1 750 0.1 864 0.1 791 0.1 477 0.0 314 0.0 200 0.0
North Jeolla 7,975 0.7 896 0.1 299 0.0 542 0.0 1,464 0.1 409 0.0 377 0.0 199 0.0 135 0.0
South Jeolla 8,322 0.7 1,917 0.2 296 0.0 672 0.1 2,246 0.2 507 0.0 473 0.0 304 0.0 179 0.0
North Gyeongsang 18,028 1.0 1,763 0.1 2,431 0.1 964 0.1 1,046 0.1 1,607 0.1 535 0.0 550 0.0 356 0.0
South Gyeongsang 28,645 1.3 3,892 0.2 2,044 0.1 1,180 0.1 1,473 0.1 1,379 0.1 749 0.0 491 0.0 424 0.0
Jeju 3,539 0.9 571 0.1 271 0.1 267 0.1 310 0.1 228 0.1 146 0.0 101 0.0 63 0.0
Total 281.481 0.8 37,366 0.1 25,972 0.1 18,105 0.1 17,305 0.1 11,708 0.0 9,176 0.0 8,317 0.0 4,970 0.0
Source: National Election Commission

In March 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol, the candidate of the conservative opposition People Power Party, won a close election over Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung by the narrowest margin ever. On 10 May 2022, Yoon was sworn in as South Korea's new president.[5]

Legislative election

Political pressure groups and leaders

  • Federation of Korean Industries
  • Federation of Korean Trade Unions
  • Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
  • Korean National Council of Churches
  • Korean Traders Association
  • Korean Veterans' Association
  • National Council of Labor Unions
  • National Democratic Alliance of Korea
  • National Federation of Farmers' Associations
  • National Federation of Student Associations

Administrative divisions

One Special City (Teukbyeolsi, Capital City), six Metropolitan Cities (Gwangyeoksi, singular and plural), nine Provinces (Do, singular and plural) and one Special Autonomous City (Sejong City).

Foreign relations

South Korea is a member of the AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MINURSO, NAM (guest), NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMOGIP, UNOMIG, UNU, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, and the Zangger Committee.

See also

References

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