South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul Diagnosed with COVID-19Democratic Party Leader Opts to Retain Proportional Seat Allocation System for National Assembly Elections

SEOUL—Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul has contracted COVID-19, a ministry official disclosed on Monday. The diagnosis was confirmed over the weekend, prompting immediate changes to the minister's schedule. In light of Cho's health status, First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hong-kyun took over the minister's duties earlier on Monday, representing him at a traditional market in Mapo, western Seoul, in anticipation of the Lunar New Year holiday.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Furthermore, Cho has deferred a policy meeting intended for small and medium-sized enterprises, originally planned for Tuesday. The announcement of Cho's COVID-19 diagnosis comes amid ongoing efforts by public officials and the broader community to manage and mitigate the impact of the pandemic within South Korea.

SEOUL - Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), announced on Monday his decision to maintain the semi-mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system for the allocation of proportional seats in the upcoming National Assembly elections. This decision comes amid criticisms that the current system enables major parties to establish temporary affiliates, known as "paper parties," to garner additional proportional representation seats.

According to Yonhap News Agency, which holds a majority in the Assembly, the authority to make this decision was vested in Lee Jae-myung. The MMP system, introduced during the 2020 general elections, was designed to ensure fair representation for minor parties within the National Assembly. However, it has been exploited by major parties, including the DP and the People Power Party (PPP), to create paper parties aimed at securing more proportional votes. "The MMP system is imperfect but represents a significant advancement. We will navigate our way to victory within the confines of the MMP system," Lee stated during an emergency press conference at the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju.

The debate between the DP and the ruling PPP has centered around whether to continue with the MMP system or revert to the parallel representative system, which counts votes for constituency seats separately from party votes. The PPP has advocated for a return to the parallel system. Under the MMP system, the allocation of parliamentary seats is directly tied to the percentage of voter support for political parties, a method introduced before the 2020 elections to choose members for the 21st session of the National Assembly. This system allows smaller parties the opportunity to secure more proportional representation slots, though it has been criticized for encouraging the formation of satellite parties aimed at maximizing proportional seats.

The National Assembly comprises 300 seats, including 253 constituency seats and 47 proportional seats. Lee confirmed his party's intention to establish a party specifically for securing proportional votes. In contrast, PPP leader Han Dong-hoon sharply criticized the decision to stick with the MMP system, arguing it confuses voters with its complex seat counting rules. "It's bewildering that the electoral system, impacting 50 million people, hinges on the whims of an individual, Lee Jae-myung. The complexity is baffling to me, and voters will likely struggle to understand how their votes are tallied," Han expressed to the media.

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