The epidemic caused by Covid-19 began to spread out to the world in March 2020. As of February 2021, more than 100 million people around the world have been infected, with the death count exceeding 2.4 million, causing an international public health crisis that continues today. Vaccines are currently being distributed and Covid-19 treatments are in the final stages of development, but we still cannot predict when the pandemic will be over.
The South Korean parliamentary elections held on 15 April were the first major vote after the global outbreak of Covid-19, which had in the country one of its earliest epicentres outside China. Yet even with voter temperatures being taken before entry and social distancing implemented at polling places, last week’s vote is likely to be remembered more for its results than for the conditions under which it took place.
On 15 April 2020, South Korea will hold its 21st parliamentary elections. In the pre-Covid-19 era the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition United Future Party (UFP) were ready to contest elections based on their policy agenda. The former advocated completing the ‘Candlelight vigils reforms’, whereas the latter called for an assessment or even indictment of the economic and foreign policies of the Moon Jae-in administration.
As the UN Secretary General calls the coronavirus “the greatest test after the Second World War”, in South Korea similar terms have been common to describe the sobering primacy of the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis; so psychologically traumatic to be widely considered as the most tragic national event since the Korean War (1950-53). The daunting memory of the AFC crisis, then surged as yardstick against which every successive economic downturn has been assessed.
The issue regarding North Korean defectors has always been a very divisive one. As accessing North Korea remains difficult, first-hand testimonies and reports from defectors have become a valuable source of information to prove the degree of inhumanity of the Pyongyang regime.
Few world leaders have faced the brunt of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy more than Moon Jae-in. Even fewer need U.S. cooperation for the cornerstone of their foreign policy agenda more than Moon and his plans for inter-Korean engagement. Despite several major challenges in the relationship over the past three years, there has also been new opportunities – thanks in no small part to Seoul’s efforts.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea will hold elections for the National Assembly on 15 April, merely two months after a sixty-one-year-old Korean woman known as “Patient 31” tested positive for the virus in the city of Daegu, South Korea’s epicenter of coronavirus cases, and triggered off the rapid transmission of the virus in the rest of country.
On 27 January a petition was filed to South Korea’s Blue House. It counted half a million signatories, and aimed at banishing visitors from China in an effort to escape the coronavirus epidemic. It was a different world back then. The coronavirus was not a pandemic yet, and Seoul had only four cases on record, all of them imported from China.
On 15 April, South Korea heads to the polls to elect the 300 members of the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral national legislature. This is a key moment for President Moon Jae-in, as he needs his Democratic Party to win a working majority to avoid becoming a lame duck in the second half of his term.
Following weeks of ups and downs surrounding the prospects for the first meeting ever between a sitting US president and the North Korean leader, the two countries officials laid the groundwork for it by engaging in "microwave diplomacy" as US journalist Barbara Demick called it. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, stood above the diplomatic roller coaster as the sole actor who keeps working on infusing coherence and stability into this ride.