South Korea gears up for April 15 election despite pandemic threat

The campaign for the April 15 South Korean National Assembly elections begins today. The vote is considered a litmus test

south korea 2020 election

Photo: Jean Chung/NYT

The campaign for the April 15 South Korean National Assembly elections begins today. The vote is considered a litmus test for public opinion of President Moon Jae-in.

Moon’s Democratic Party currently holds a parliamentary plurality. The conservative United Future Policy (UFP) is the main opposition party. Although the UFP continues to promote its traditional conservative economic and social policies, its policy stance on North Korea seems to be shifting.

Conservative lawmakers typically promote hardline policies against engagement with the North. In this election, the party has nominated high profile North Korean defector Ho Thae Young to run for election in Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district. Ho, like the UFP, believes that Moon overly appeases Pyongyang by shying away from addressing its human rights abuses. He is running to develop a more realistic policy for reunification and improve conditions for defectors in South Korea.

The UFP’s decision to nominate Ho suggests that the party is shifting away from dredging up anti-communist sentiment in order to gain support for hardline policies; instead, it is trying to appeal to a younger generation. While it seems unlikely that Ho will prevail in an election over his more experienced opposition, the UFP is likely to hammer at Moon’s strategy of engagement and rapprochement.

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