Asia Minute: South Korea’s New Leadership Will Face Political and Economic Challenges

Mar 14, 2017

The National Assembly in Seoul
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The former leader of South Korea left the official presidential residence Sunday.  Elections will be held in about two months. Meanwhile, the country faces not only continuing security threats from North Korea, also challenges in economics and politics. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

 


South Korea’s parliament, the National Assembly, has 300 seats.

The ruling party of former President Park Geun-hye holds 128. The main opposition party has 121. Three smaller parties divide the rest

The ruling party leans to the right, the main opposition leans to the left.

So far, three candidates top the polls for the next presidential election.

Moon Jae-in narrowly lost the presidential election to Park in 2012 and he now leads in all the polls.  

Another contender from the same opposition party, Ahn He‘e-jung, is now governor of a western province with the fastest growing economy in the country.

These two will likely face each other next month in a primary election—while acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn will probably represent Park’s party in a general election in May.

South Korea’s economy will be a challenge for any candidate.

Growth has slowed from an annualized pace of more than 3 percent about a year ago to a little more than two percent in the latest quarter.

Household debt is at a record high—unemployment among young people is close to ten percent.

One bright spot: Moody’s says the political turmoil is actually a potential positive for South Korea’s  sovereign credit rating—writing that “the election of a new president could provide fresh impetus” for economic reform.