How will South Korea’s general election impact North Korean human rights?

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Joseph Kim
Joseph Kim
Program Manager, Global Policy and Expert-in-Residence
George W. Bush Institute

What’s happening: South Korea’s 2024 general election took place on April 10, and the Democratic Party (DP) won a majority of seats in the country’s parliament. South Korea has two main political parties: the DP and the People Power Party (PPP). DP is progressive, and the PPP is conservative. Until mid to late March, the PPP was leading in public polls. However, the DP was leading in the weeks prior the election.  

Why this matters: We can expect a significant policy shift in North Korean human rights issues and the treatment of North Korean human rights groups in South Korea now that the DP controls the National Assembly. The DP and PPP have competing policies on how to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.   

  • Put simply, the DP seeks dialogue and engagement with the North Korean regime at almost any cost, even if it means cracking down on North Korean human rights groups in South Korea.   
  • The PPP is open to engagement but with conditions, such as including North Korean human rights as a part of any dialogue with the Kim Jong Un regime.   

Bottom line:  The current president of South Korea is from the conservative party and has three years remaining in his term. However, now that the PPP has lost its majority in parliament, the president’s ability to advance and promote human rights in North Korea will be significantly limited, if not nearly impossible.