South Korea’s 21st legislative election will be held on 15 April 2020. All 300 members of the National Assembly will be elected with 253 from first-past-the-post constituencies and 47 from proportional party lists. The electoral system and number of the members of the National Assembly could change before the election in 2020 due to the constitutional amendments and electoral reforms proposed by the incumbent president, Moon Jae-in.
300 members of the National Assembly were elected in the 2016 elections, of whom 253 (84%) were elected from single-member constituencies on a first-past-the-post basis, and 47 (16%) from closed party lists through proportional representation by the Hare quota largest remainder method, in accordance with South Korea’s Public Official Election Act. In order to win seats through proportional representation, parties needed to pass an election threshold of either 5 single-member districts or 3% of the total list vote.
Restrictions on candidates
Candidates for the National Assembly were required to pay a fee of 15,000,000 South Korean won (US$14,000 as of December 2017), and under the National Security Act the Constitutional Court may block the registration of “left-wing”, “pro–North Korean” parties, though this provision had not affected the recent elections.
Date and process
The 2020 election for the National Assembly will be held on April 15, in accordance with Article 34 of the Public Official Election Act, which specifies that Election Day for legislative elections is held on “the first Wednesday from the 50th day before the expiration of the [National Assembly members’] term of office”. Eligible voters were required to be registered and at least 19 years old on the day of the election, and needed to show an approved form of identification at the polling place. Polls on Election Day will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Korea Standard Time (21:00–09:00 UTC, April 14–15).
Since 2009, voters have been able to vote overseas. The electorates can also cast early votes at polling stations in Korea without prior notice.
Election Reform and Fast-Track Controversy
The legislative process of changing the election law, ongoing since February 2019, based on the 85th Article of the National Assembly law so called ‘Fasttrack’ was heavily controversial, due to absence of conventional process of agreement between all parties with strong denial from main opposition Liberty Korea Party. Sohn Hak-kyu, the leader of the Bareunmirae, and his decision to dismiss his fellow standing committee member Oh Shin-hwan, in order to pass the “Fasttrack” has stirred up legal controversy.
The election reform bill, including an Mixed-Member proportional system, was passed on December 27, under strong defiance by Liberty Korea Party. The eventual number of directly elected seats and PR slots will be kept at 253 and 47, respectively, in the 300-member National Assembly. The PR seats would however switch from a parallel system to a compensatory one. Justice Party leader Sim Sang-jung, was seriously criticized by media of her remarks, “the citizens do not have to know about election law”.
Mixed-member proportional representation system
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party, declared its plan to set up satelite party to deal with new election system changes.
Parties and candidates
Five major parties will contest the 2020 election:
Two other parties have one member in the current National Assembly: the left-wing nationalist Minjung Party and far-right pro-Park Our Republican Party. The Green Party Korea also plans to run a multitude of candidates across the country.
Sources and further reading:
Ten Elections to Watch in 2020
From Taiwan’s vote to the Tokyo Olympics: Asia’s 2020 calendar
South Korean protests weaken Moon Jae-in ahead of 2020 polls