South Korea Elections: Spoiler Democracy or an Alternative Political Course?

The Minjoo, an opposition democratic party, has won the parliamentary majority as a result of the South Korean elections for the first time in 16 years.  Valdai Club experts believe that the democrats are too divided to dramatically change their country’s political course, but they will certainly cause certain turbulence in conservative policies.

Held amid rising tensions in relations with the DPRK and large-scale military preparations, the South Korean parliamentary elections have reflected electoral moods before the presidential ballot scheduled for late 2017.

According to Executive Director of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research Georgy Toloraya, the voters, who actually voted against the ruling party, Saenuri, have passed a verdict on President Park Geun-hye’s policy. “[Earlier] they fell in for her vociferous promises of economic improvements and foreign policy initiatives, particularly ones related to North Korea,” he said in an interview with

The fact that the opposition has won the majority, with due regard to the party’s composition, will seriously impede the governmental course and decision-making in general. “During the next one and a half year remaining until the presidential elections, we can expect much turbulence, if not a power crisis, in everything with a bearing on Park Geun-hye’s conduct of her policies, both foreign and home,” he said.

But we shouldn’t expect any radical changes because the opposition lacks an integrated program. “The democrats are rather divided; in all evidence, they will adopt spoiler tactics, which means considering governmental initiatives and attempting either to block or support them. But they will not suggest an alternative course,” he believes.

Mr. Toloraya has outlined several possible trends in South Korea’s development after the parliamentary elections. “At home, they’ll seek to democratize, play down the use of repressive machinery and intelligence against dissidents, and rule out the imperial style of governance attributed to Park Geun-hye,” he said.

“Their foreign policy will be aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on the US and displaying greater flexibility towards the DPRK. “But the thing is that Pyongyang itself is unlikely to seek any understandings with the Park Geun-hye regime. More likely than not, North Korea will wait for the presidential elections so as to have business with a new president. The opposition majority in parliament will make things easier,” he said.

“But it’s not as benign as all that, because the democrats do not share the North Korean views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula and will not automatically approve relevant initiatives. In this regard, North Koreans may be in for a certain disappointment,” he added.

The Russian ambassador in the Republic of Korea between 2005 and 2009, Gleb Ivashentsov, also believes that we should not expect any dramatic changes, particularly in the area of foreign policy.

“A shift is certainly in evidence, but I don’t think that the political course will change, because there was a foreign policy consensus between the opposition and the former ruling party,” he explained.

He also stressed that there was no focus on foreign policy during the election campaign.

“South Korea generally has a dim view of the North Korean missile and nuclear program. We should also take into account the US position: all the US presidential candidates declaim against Pyongyang. I think we shouldn’t expect any tangible changes any time soon. As for China and Japan, things are likely to remain what they were in the past as well in this regard,” Mr. Ivashentsov said.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.