South Korean President Moon Jae-In
/ April 9, 2021
Leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-In is likely to rapidly lose his grip on state affairs following crushing defeats his ruling party suffered in mayoral elections in Seoul and Busan, analysts say.
The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) won landslide victories over Moon's Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) in Wednesday's mayoral by-elections in the country's capital and its second-largest city.
In Seoul, the PPP's Oh Se-Hoon was elected with 57.5 percent of the ballots, beating the DPK's Park Young-Sun's 39.18 percent.
In Busan, the PPP's Park Heong-Joon defeated the DPK's Kim Young-Choon, 62.67 percent to 34.42 percent.
"The election sends a signal that the Moon government is mired in a lame-duck status," said Hong Min, a senior researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, according to a Korea Times report
. "From North Korea's standpoint, the attractiveness of the Moon administration as a talking partner has been further diminished because chances have become slimmer for Moon's remaining appeasement policies being realized."
The conservatives' victory in Seoul was fueled in part by the support of South Korea's younger generations.
Exit polls found that over half of people in their 20s and 30s supported the conservative party: 55.3 percent of people in their 20s voted for Oh while 34.1 percent supported Park; among people in their 30s, 56.5 percent picked Oh and 38.7 percent voted for Park.
"If you assume that the by-elections were a prelude to next year's presidential election in South Korea, chances are high for the country to have a conservative government next year, and this also implies that North Korea will see no reason to have talks with the South now," Hong said.
The Korea Times' Nam Hyun-Woo noted in an April 8 analysis: "The election results are largely interpreted as an expression of public disappointment with the Moon administration's apparent failure to control housing prices in Seoul and Busan, rather than liking or disliking the individual candidates."
Nam added: "As this sentiment was additionally fueled by a large-scale real estate scandal involving some employees of the state-run home developer the Korean Land and Housing Corp. (LH), Moon's control of the government and his administration appear to be slipping away quickly, with slightly over one year remaining in his term."
During a press briefing, Thursday, presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok said Moon was taking the by-election results as "a stern reprimand" from the people and will "address state affairs modestly with a heavy responsibility."
Free Press International