Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

On April 11th, 2024, the Mansfield Foundation hosted Dr. Jaehan Park (Johns Hopkins SAIS) and Seoho Lee (McLarty Associates) for a roundtable discussion on the outcome of the April 10th South Korean National Assembly Elections, followed by a Q&A with attendees.

Dr. Park began with a comparison of the 2016 election polling versus the 2024 election polling and used the map to discuss President Yoon’s low approval ratings and the slow fall from dominance that the center-right has had over Korean politics historically. The opposition Democratic Party again defeated President Yoon’s People Power Party in this election, and Dr. Park argued that ideological shifts and generational changes beginning in the 2010s have contributed to the rise of politicians with new ideologies, with 2016 marking the most significant shift away from conservative parties. In response to a question posed by moderator Dr. Sayuri Romei about how the People Power Party’s defeat could impact U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation and bilateral relations between the ROK and Japan, Mr. Lee underscored the point that while President Yoon no longer has the majority in the National Assembly, he remains in charge of executive power. The electoral results mostly indicates a further deadlock on domestic issues while foreign policy remains under presidential authority. However, even with foreign affairs not being under the purview of the Assembly, President Yoon could face impeachment should eight members of his own party stand with the opposition.

In the Q&A portion of the roundtable, a wide array of topics were covered, such as inter-Korean relations, increases in radicalization and polarization of voters, Korean energy policy, rise of third parties, and the influence of U.S.-China strategic competition on South Korea.