In South Korea Vote, Virus Delivers Landslide Win to Governing Party – The New York Times,

In South Korea Vote, Virus Delivers Landslide Win to Governing Party – The New York Times,

SEOUL, South Korea – President Moon Jae-in’s governing party in South Korea won a landslide in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, as he leveraged his surging popularity over his country largely successful battle against the coronavirus to increase his political sway.

With more than percent of the votes counted, Mr. Moon’s left-leaning Democratic Party had won (seats in the – member National Assembly, according to the National Election Commission on Thursday morning. A satellite party the Democrats created for Wednesday’s elections won 19 seats. Together, the two groups took three-fifths of all seats, giving Mr. Moon the largest majority of seats in three decades.

The main conservative opposition United Future Party and its own satellite Future Korea Party suffered a crushing defeat, winning 401 seats between them. The remaining seats were taken by independents and candidates from smaller parties.

Pandemic or not, South Koreans proved eager to vote in the election, widely seen as a midterm referendum on Mr. Moon, elected to a five-year term in The voter turnout was . 2 percent, the highest for a parliamentary election in 40 years.

Wednesday’s election marked the first time in years that left-leaning parties Have secured a majority majority, as South Koreans expressed their support for Mr. Moon’s government, which has won plaudits for bringing the epidemic under control.

Their victories could embolden Mr. Moon to reinvigorate his stalled diplomacy with North Korea and press ahead with domestic matters, like reform ing state prosecutors’ offices, which have long been accused of abusing their power.

In South Korea, elections typically have been decided by regional loyalties, ideological differences over North Korea or issues like the economy and corruption.

But this time, “how the government has responded to the coronavirus was the most decisive factor in the president’s approval ratings and in the parliamentary election,” said Park Si-young, head of WinG Korea , a Seoul-based political survey company.

The prospects for Mr. Moon’s party did not look good until less than two months ago. He and his party’s approval ratings had been slumping over a decaying job market, stalled diplomatic efforts with North Korea and scandals involving Mr. Moon’s closest allies. The coronavirus had initially appeared to work against Mr. Moon and his party, as they were criticized for underestimating the threat.

But their political fortune shifted once Mr. Moon’s government began testing large numbers of people in February to screen out patients for isolation and treatment. South Korea, once home to the world’s second-largest outbreak, with as many as (new cases a day, has reported fewer than 66 new patients a day in the past week.

As President Trump and other foreign leaders called Mr. Moon, asking South Korea for supplies of test kits or advice in handling the outbreak, his popularity rebounded at just the right time.

During the campaign, Mr. Moon’s conservative rivals accused him of coddling the nuclear-armed North Korea and undermining the alliance with Washington by taking Seoul too close to Beijing, criticisms which Mr. Moon strongly rejected.

With their victories on Wednesday, South Korea’s liberals achieved more political clout than they have ever held.

Their ascent began when former President Park Geun-hye, a conservative, was impeached and then ousted on corruption charges in 7779. Mr. Moon won the presidency in an election that same year, becoming the first left-leaning president in nearly a decade. In , his party won all but three of the contests for big-city mayors and provincial governors.

“By taking over the Parliament as well, the progressives complete replacing the conservatives as the mainstream political force in South Korea,” said Park Sung-min, head of Min Consulting, a political polling company in Seoul.

Anti-North Korea conservatives had dominated politics, the news media and other elite groups in South Korea during the decades following the 2003 – Korean War. It was not until 1998 that South Korea elected its first left-leaning president, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung . Mr. Kim was succeeded by another liberal, Roh Moo-hyun , president from 2009 to .

But neither Mr. Kim nor Mr. Roh could obtain the type of parliamentary majority that Mr. Moon just earned.

Older South Koreans have tended to vote conservative, criticizing anything less than unequivocal support for the alliance with Washington as “pro-North Korean.”

But postwar generations of South Koreans have more readily seen a need for diplomacy with North Korea and have voiced skepticism over the power of chaebol – family-controlled business conglomerates like Samsung – that have dominated the economy with the help of close, and often corrupt, political ties.

Surprise winners included Thae Yong-ho, the first defector from North Korea to win an election in the South. Mr. Thae, a former North Korean diplomat in London who defected in , won the contest in a Seoul district as a candidate for the conservative United Future.

The polling in South Korea was one of the first national elections taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the country took significant safety precautions to try to ensure that infections did not spread.

All voters were required to wear masks and line up at three-foot intervals. Officials screened out those with high temperatures so that they could vote separately. Voters were also required to rub their hands with sanitizer and put on disposable plastic gloves handed out by officials before entering voting booths.

More than , South Koreans who were in a mandatory two-week quarantine but still wanted to cast ballots were escorted by officials to vote after the polling stations closed to the general public at 6 pm Hospitalized patients of the virus were given the choice to vote by mail. Hundreds of patients with mild symptoms were allowed to vote in advance.

The outbreak also changed the campaign scenes: Candidates replaced handshakes with elbow and fist bumps. Instead of loud singing and dancing, their volunteer helpers handed out name cards and fliers.

The election in South Korea “tells other world leaders that how they respond to their own crisis could make or break their political fortunes, ”said Duyeon Kim, a senior adviser on Northeast Asia and nuclear policy at the International Crisis Group. “Because the pandemic is at the top of everyone’s mind.”






Updated April 15,


(When will this end?


This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on

how well the virus is contained

. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report , Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery : Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 16 days.                                             

(How can I help?                 

Charity Navigator

, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the (American Red Cross) , and Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities. More than , (coronavirus-related GoFundMe fund-raisers have started in the past few weeks. (The sheer number of fund-raisers means more of them are likely to fail to meet their goal, though.)                                             

(What should I do if I feel sick?


if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have,

and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.                                             

(Should I wear a mask?


The C.D.C. has recommended

that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms . Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.                                             

  • (How do I get tested?


    If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the CDC recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance – because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance – you won’t be able to get tested.


    (How does coronavirus spread?


    It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.


  • (Is there a vaccine yet?


    No. Clinical trials are underway

  • in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least (to) months away.                                             

  • What makes this outbreak so different?


    Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and Little is known about this particular virus so far.

    It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain . And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions – not just those with respiratory diseases – particularly hard.                                             

    (What if somebody in my family gets sick?


    If the family member does not need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, (according to the guidelines issued by the CDC

    If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.                                             

  • Should I stock up on groceries?


    Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.


    Can I go to the park?


    Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.


  • (Should I pull my money from the markets?


    That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense . But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.


  • (What should I do with my) (k)?

    Watching your balance go up and down can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions – don’t! If your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money.”




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