South Korea: union-based party's breakthrough

Submitted by Anon on 27 April, 2004 - 9:25

The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) won 10 seats in South Korea's general election on 15 April and emerged as the third largest party in its parliament, the National Assembly. The Uri Party, which supports the president Roh Moo-hyun, won 152 seats in the 299-seat National Assembly, giving it a slim majority.
The DLP, formed in 2000 and backed by the independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), won two seats in electoral districts and an additional eight seats after winning 13.1% of the party vote.

Changes in the electoral system helped the DLP. This was the first election where some seats were selected by proportional representation.

The DLP was the only party to oppose the deployment of South Korean troops in Iraq. It also opposes free trade agreements and calls for the withdrawal of US forces from Korea.

During the election the DLP attacked the big multinational conglomerates, known as the chaebol, such as Samsung and Hyundai, for causing Korea's economic slowdown. DLP leader Kwon Young-ghil argued that "employees' participation in management is the only way to break up the chaebol".

The party also called for taxing the rich to citizens to finance free medical services, and education and legislation abolishing wage and benefit differentials between temporary and permanent workers. It received most support from the civil service union and the Korean Teachers' and Educational Workers' Union.

Kwon Young-ghil said after he was elected: "I thank all the voters who made the great decision to support the DLP. We will devote ourselves in representing the rights of workers, farmers and common citizens."

The election had a wider significance for Korean politics, as the conservative Grand National Party, backed by the chaebol, lost control of the National Assembly after decades of control.

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