Bulletin

An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

South Korea election: Dancing politicians make headlines

The South Korean snap election, which was triggered by former president Park Geun-hye's impeachment, will be held on 9 May 2017. Two experts offer some comments on the South Korean political system, dancing politicians, and why voters aren’t talking about the threat from the North. 

Dancing politicians, not North Korea, making headlines in South Korea

Shine Choi, Lecturer in Politics/International Relations, Massey University

On 9 May, South Korea will head into its 19th presidential election.

While rising tensions between the United States and North Korea have been making global headlines in recent weeks, election debates and media buzz in South Korea have largely ignored the hostilities for more bread-and-butter issues such as unemployment, the sluggish economy and dancing politicians (see above).

This isn’t because candidates have nothing to say on North Korea-related matters. They do. Liberal candidates are advocating for more engagement with the North, while conservatives support the deployment of the US THAAD anti-missile system on the peninsula.

Rather, the focus on domestic issues may be because the election is too special to be hijacked by national security concerns, which are challenging for people to relate to on an individual level. A security problem at the borders that observers caution as an immediate and catastrophic threat may be too abstract an issue to mobilise voters.

It would be simplistic, however, to dismiss the South Korean public as being apathetic or too desensitised to the North Korean threat. Perhaps the muted reaction of South Koreans towards North Korea offers opportunities for creative new solutions to discuss the Korean division.

 

Moon Jae-in (Democatic Party) and Ahn Cheol-Soo (People's Party)

The differences between the South Korean and New Zealand electoral system 

Alex Tan, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury

New Zealand uses a mixed-member proportional representation system while South Korea has a semi-presidential system with a legislature elected using the mixed-member majoritarian system, and a president elected by the people on a first-past-the-post basis.

The significant difference between the two electoral systems is that in New Zealand the electoral threshold is five percent or one electoral seat to allow for allocation for list MPs, while in South Korea it isthree percent or five electoral seats to allow for list MP allocation.

New Zealand’s MMP system will tend to help smaller parties gain seats, while the MMM system tends to reward larger parties.

Political parties in South Korea are fluid and less institutionalised than in New Zealand, and tend to be used as electoral vehicles of politicians. Many South Korean parties do not have a long history. For instance, in this upcoming election, there are two candidates from parties which split from Park Geun-hye’s conservative Saenuri party post-scandal.

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8 May 2017