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Green Party Korea 2018 Local Election Report

(Shin, Ji-ye candidate for Seoul Mayor) & (Go, Eun-young candidate for Jeju Island Governor)
(Shin, Ji-ye candidate for Seoul Mayor) & (Go, Eun-young candidate for Jeju Island Governor)

From Feminist Seoul Mayor to Jeju Governor with No Development

“I am a Feminist Candidate for Seoul Mayor.” (Shin, Ji-ye candidate for Seoul Mayor)

“Let’s Vote for our Dream! No Development, Yes Basic Income! (Go, Eun-young candidate for Jeju Island Governor)

Green Party Korea (GP Korea) advanced Green politics to Korean society at the June 2018 election campaign; the party fielded 32 candidates in total - one for municipal government mayor, twelve local council members, and one proportional representative. This is the second local election in which the GP Korea has taken part following the 2014 election.

Greens candidate Ji-ye SHIN ran for Seoul Mayor on a feminist policy platform. Ji-ye is in her 20s and impressively broke through the traditionally male-dominated atmosphere in Seoul politics.  Ji-ye experienced strong opposition in the campaign as her election banners were routinely torn down and defaced largely because she appeared as a young feminist in public. The political attacks directed at Ji-ye drew significant attention from the media and the public.  Ji-ye achieved an election result of 1.7 percent of the vote, placed fourth out of nine candidates, and received more votes than any other progressive political party candidate including Justice Party and People’s United Party.

Greens candidate Eun-Young GO contested for Jeju island governor on an election platform for basic income, ecological tourism, gender equality, and development of Jeju as a peace island free of naval bases. Eun-Young received 3.5 percent and the third highest vote outcome.

South Korea's 2018 local elections had 71 candidates contesting for 17 regional local governments, of these only six candidates were female, and two of six were from the Green Party Korea. Given the fact that curerntly no female mayor for the regional local government has yet to be elected, it is evident that female politicians face difficulties and hardship to be a candidate and moreover to win an election. The fact that two Green female candidates, Ms. Shin and Ms. Go, have spoken about gender equality and green politics leading social issues and achieved significant votes gives us hope that the future will be different from the past.

Green Party Korea succeeded in creating unique and interesting electoral campaigns with very limited resources. For example, the Greens candidate for Chungbuk province local council member, Mr. Lee Kyung campaigned locally by singing and dancing with sunflower decorations at every place visited by him and his supporters which drew special attention from the local media. Candidate Lee concentrated on talking about green policies rather than adopting the negative campaigning approach of blaming other candidates which is generally practiced by Korean politicians.  The Korean Greens candidates adopted an election strategy which emphasised Green politics rather than individual politicians.

The June 2018 elections were overall very difficult for progressive parties, including GP Korea, to gain mainstream attention due to the core national and international political issue at the time focusing on the relationships and consensus among the two Koreas and the United States.  During the elections the public was relatively less interested in domestic politics and most gave their support to the ruling party with little attention to the other progressive parties.  The ruling party of President Moon's government achieved enormous support across the country and won in 78.5% of regional local governments, 54% of local councils, 14 mayors elected out of 17, and 67% of municipality mayors. 

These outcomes reflect a persistent problem with Korea's electoral system which advantages the two major parties. Other than the two major parties - the ruling party and Liberty Korea Party, the other parties including Korea Greens received 20% of the vote, but only won 2.3% of the available seats and 3.7% of seats in local councils.

Despite this context, GP Korea showed its political ideology successfully and lead an attractive campaign.  GP Korea's campaign was financially supported by many citizens, and the Ten dollar fund campaign and fund committee for the candidate attracted more funds than planned.

Although failing to get any candidate elected, this election has built a foundation to GP Korea to take further steps toward the next election in 2020 and 2022. Globally, European Greens gave a very positive impact upon Korean politics. GP Korea hopes that the solidarity with all other Greens on earth will be continued and fortified.

(Shin, Ji-ye candidate for Seoul Mayor) & (Go, Eun-young candidate for Jeju Island Governor)
Mr. Lee Kyung was the Greens candidate for Chungbuk province local council member

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