South Korea's ruling party won a comfortable majority of parliamentary seats in national elections yesterday after a tightly controlled campaign in which many prominent opposition figures were barred from running.
The Democratic Justice Party won 151 seats in the 276-member National Assembly, giving a strong political power base to President Chun Doo Hwan, who heads the party.
The quiet election was intended to bring an end to a confusing period of political transition that followed the assassination of president Park Chung Hee 16 months ago. After the military takeover last May that led to Chun's presidency, all political activities had been banned until last fall.
Before allowing resumption of political activities early this year, Chun purged 835 prominent politicians, about 260 of whom were later pardoned for a political comeback.
When the campaign started three weeks ago, a dozen newly organized political parties put up 525 candidates in addition to 104 independents. But many political figures including Kim Jong Pil, former head of the Democratic Republican Party; Kim Young Sam, president of the New Democratic Party, and opposition leader Kim Dae Jung, serving a life term for sedition, were barred from running.
Candidates were restricted from holding private rallies or making door-to-door visits and could state their political views only at joint gatherings authorized by the government.
The Democratic Korea Party, largely former members of the now-defunct New Democratic Party, emerged as the major opposition with 81 seats, followed by the Korean National Party, formed by members of the former ruling Democratic Republican Party, which won 25. Eleven seats went to independent candidates and the remaining eight were distributed among five minority groups including the Democratic Socialist Party.
Kwon Jung Dal, secretary general of the ruling party, said that "the overwhelming victory of the party came from the people's desire for a political stability and support to the party's realistic campaign pledges."
Yoo Chi Song, president of the Democratic Korea Party, the main opposition group, however, accused the government party of making too many promises during the campaign.
"My party will exert its best efforts to check the administration and the government party if they try to go in the wrong direction," he said.
Officials said 78.4 percent of the 20.9 million eligible voters turned out, slightly more than the 77.1 percent turnout in the previous National Assembly election held in December 1978.
The opening session of the four-year term of the new National Assembly is expected on or about April 10.