South Korea's opposition party makes gains in legislative elections

The opposition's gains could factor into decisions affecting North Korea policy.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  April 13, 2016 at 10:58 PM
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SEOUL, April 13 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye's ruling conservatives lost the parliamentary majority during elections Wednesday – raising the possibility the South's North Korea policy could shift with the new tide in domestic politics.

The governing Saenuri Party lost the majority of seats at the National Assembly for the first time in 16 years, gaining 122 out of 300 seats, the BBC reported.

The opposition Minjoo Party took 123 seats and other opposition parties also made gains.

The election results were attributed to largely economic factors.

South Korean growth has remained sluggish during Park's term in office, and double-digit youth unemployment has invited public criticism of Seoul's policies.

The government has also been faulted for a tougher approach toward left-wing activists.

The election outcome is raising speculation of a different North Korea strategy in parliament, South Korean newspaper Herald Business reported Thursday, local time.

Park has spent much of 2016 taking a hardline approach toward Pyongyang, which culminated in the expedited shutdown of operations at Kaesong, the jointly operated factory park in North Korea.

The Minjoo Party is the successor to the National Democratic Party of the late Kim Dae-jung, whose "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement culminated in a historical summit in Pyongyang between the leaders of the two Koreas in 2000.

Minjoo Party politicians ran on a platform of resuming North-South cooperation, which includes plans to restart Kaesong and establishing an inter-Korea cooperation office in Pyongyang.

Kim Seo-jin, the executive director of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex Business Association, said that he is hoping the issue of resuming operations in the North could be discussed in the new parliament.

But others, including an unidentified South Korean company official, told Herald Business it's not likely inter-Korea relations will improve as an outcome of the elections.

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