Politics of South Korea

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Korea

Politics of the Republic of Korea takes place in the framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of state, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts and a Constitutional Court. Since 1948, the constitution has undergone five major revisions, each signifying a new republic. The current Sixth Republic began with the last major constitutional revision in 1987.

National government

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Park Geun-hye Saenuri Party 25 February 2013
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn Independent 18 June 2015

The head of state is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a single five-year[1] term. The president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed force of South Korea and enjoys considerable executive powers.

The president appoints the prime minister with approval of the National Assembly, as well as appointing and presiding over the State Council of chief ministers as the head of government. On 12 March 2004 the executive power of then president Roh Moo-hyun was suspended when the Assembly voted to impeach him and Prime Minister Goh Kun became an Acting President. On 14 May 2004 the Constitutional Court overturned the impeachment decision made by the Assembly and Roh was reinstated.

Legislative branch

The National Assembly (국회, 國會, gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 244 members in single-seat constituencies and 56 members by proportional representation.

Judicial branch

The South Korean judiciary is independent of the other two branches. The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, whose justices are appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly. In addition, the Constitutional Court oversees questions of constitutionality. South Korea has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see Political parties in South Korea. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in South Korea.

South Korea elects on national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a five-year term by the people. The National Assembly (Gukhoe) has 300 members, elected for a four-year term, 246 members in single-seat constituencies and 54 members by proportional representation.

The main political parties in South Korea are the Saenuri Party (lit. "New Frontier Party", SP/NFP), the Democratic Party of Korea (lit. "Together Democratic Party", DPK), the centrist People's Party, and the left-wing Justice Party. The conservative Saenuri Party and the more liberal Democratic Party are the dominant forces of South Korean politics.

Parties in the 20th National Assembly of South Korea
(as of 21 November 2016)
Group Floor leader Seats % of seats
Saenuri Chung Woo-taik 128 42.7%
Minjoo Woo Sang-ho 121 40.3%
People's Park Jie-won 38 12.7%
Justice Roh Hoe-chan 6 2.0%
Independents 7 2.3%
Total 300 100.0%


  1. Negotiation groups can be formed by 20 or more members. There are currently 3 negotiation groups in the Assembly, formed by the Saenuri Party, the Democratic Party, and the People's Party.

Latest elections

 Summary of the 13 April 2016 South Korean National Assembly election results[2][3]
Parties Local seats ± Block seats ± Constituency votes % PR block votes % Total seats ±
Minjoo Party of Korea (더불어민주당) (MPK) 1 110 Increase4 13 Decrease8 8,881,369 37.0% 6,069,744 25.5% 123 Decrease4
Saenuri Party (새누리당) (SP) 2 105 Decrease25 17 Decrease10 9,200,690 38.3% 7,960,272 33.5% 122 Decrease35
People's Party (국민의당) (PP) 25 (new) 13 (new) 3,565,451 14.9% 6,355,572 26.7% 38 (new)
Justice Party (정의당) (JP) 3 2 Decrease5 4 Decrease2 395,357 1.6% 1,719,891 7.2% 6 Decrease7
Christian Liberal Party (기독자유당) (CLP) 0 (new) 0 (new) 1,376 0.0% 626,853 2.6% 0 (new)
Minjoo Party (민주당) (MP) 4 0 (new) 0 (new) 17,034 0.1% 209,872 0.9% 0 (new)
Other parties 0 Steady 0 Steady 257,879 1.1% 818,773 3.4% 0 Steady
Independents 11 Increase8 N/A 1,683,264 7.0% N/A 11 Increase8
Total 253 Increase7 47 Decrease7 24,002,420 100.0% 23,760,977 100.0% 300
Turnout: 58.0%[4]

Seat changes are compared to previous election, not the outgoing Assembly
1 Comparison based on 2012 Democratic United Party result
2 Comparison includes members elected in 2012 for the Liberty Forward Party
3 Comparison based on 2012 Unified Progressive Party result
4 Non-parliamentary grouping: not to be confused with the larger Minjoo Party of Korea, more usually referred to as the Minjoo Party

 Summary of the 19 December 2012 South Korean presidential election results
Candidate Party Votes %
Park Geun-hyeSaenuri Party15,773,12851.55
Moon Jae-inDemocratic United Party14,692,63248.02
Kang Ji-wonIndependent53,3030.17
Kim Soon-jaIndependent46,0170.15
Kim So-yeonIndependent16,6870.05
Park Jong-sunIndependent12,8540.04
Invalid/blank votes126,838
Registered voters/turnout40,507,84275.84
Source: National Election Commission

Political pressure groups and leaders

Administrative divisions

(Main article: Administrative divisions of South Korea. For historical information, see Provinces of Korea and Special cities of Korea)

One Special City (Teukbyeolsi, Capital City), six Metropolitan Cities (Gwangyeoksi, singular and plural.), nine Provinces (Do, singular and plural) and one Special Autonomous City (Sejong City).

International organization participation

AfDB, APEC, AsDB, BIS, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA (observer), IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MINURSO, NAM (guest), NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMOGIP, UNOMIG, UNU, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee


  1. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ks.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. "4.13 총선" (in Korean). Naver News. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. "개표진행상황" (in Korean). Republic of Korea National Election Commission. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  4. "20대 총선 잠정투표율 58.0%…19대보다 3.8%p↑" (in Korean). Yonhap News. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
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