South Korea’s ruling party has won a landslide victory in the national assembly elections.
The win has been described as a ‘success’ for President Moon Jae-in’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Just a few months ago scandals over power abuse and ‘sluggish’ economic growth were undermining the president, with critics calling his approach towards North Korea unrealistic.
It was expected that Moon’s party would struggle, with job creation and wages. North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme also dominated the political agenda and hiss approval rating also fell to the 30% level in 2019 amid an economic slowdown. However, Moon had successfully portrayed the outbreak as an opportunity for South Korea to restructure its economy – capitalising on industries like AI and biopharma.
Meanwhile, South Korea was among the first countries to hold a national vote since the pandemic began.
With nearly all votes counted, Mr Moon’s Democratic Party won 163 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly.
Millions of people, wearing masks and standing at least one metre apart, turned out to vote on Wednesday in one of the first national elections to be held since the global outbreak began.
More than 13,000 people under self-quarantine due to the virus were allowed to cast ballots immediately after the polls closed, provided they had no symptoms.
Among the winning candidates for United Future was high-profile North Korean defector Thae Yong-ho. Mr Thae, a former senior diplomat at North Korea’s embassy in London, won a seat for the Gangnam district in Seoul.
Although 35 parties put forward candidates, the race was between the left-leaning Democratic Party and the conservative opposition, United Future Party. United Future and its parliamentary partners are expected to win 103 seats.
It is the first time in 16 years that left-leaning parties have secured a majority.
South Korea once had the world’s second-largest number of infections after China but brought the outbreak under control through aggressive testing, tracking infected people and widely observed social distancing.
The country continued to record a low number of new infections on Thursday, reporting 22 new cases – the fourth day in a row they have stayed below 30. The country has a total of 10,613 cases and 229 deaths.