Things are looking up for the New Frontier Party.

South Korea’s leading conservative party has been in a tailspin ever since losing a special election for Seoul mayor in October.  However, a new pair of polls suggest that the party, which recently changed its name from the Grand National Party, may have begun to reverse its slide ahead of legislative elections on April 11.

A poll taken by the Hankyoreh newspaper and the Korea Society Opinion Institute on February 24 and 25 shows the conservatives ahead of the leading progressive Democratic Unity Party:

When asked which party they would vote for in the April 11 general election, 38.2% of respondents said the SP, and 32.9% that they would vote for the DUP. These were followed by the Unified Progressive Party with 3.1%, the Liberty Forward Party with 1.7%, K Party with 1.5% and the New Progressive Party with 1.1%.

(As an aside, “SP” is an odd acronym formed by combing the first letter of the Korean-to-English transliteration of the New Frontier Party (Saenuri) with the English word “party”.  Why they did not just use NFP is beyond me, although a possible explanation is that the editors have not yet decided on whether to translate the Korean “새누리당” into “New Frontier Party” or “New World Party”.)

Other recent polls had shown the DUP slightly ahead of the NFP, but the most recent poll by our friends at Realmeter has the conservatives rising almost four percentage points to 36.5 percent, just behind the DUP’s 37.5 percent.

The Hankyoreh reports that public approval of reforms in the conservative party’s nomination process may have fueled its recent rise in the polls.  The NFP has added a primary system to its party nomination process, which will allow wider input into whom the party nominates in the April elections.

Park Geun-hye is again leading a conservative comeback

Another factor may be the the leadership of Park Geun-hye.  The daughter of popular former dictator Park Chung-hee helped the party avoid electoral disaster in the 2004 legislative elections and endured a box-cutter attack while campaigning for the party in local elections in 2006.  Her steady hand, and the distance she has maintained from unpopular conservative president Lee Myung-bak, may help the NFP retain a plurality in the National Assembly.  That would remove an possibility of her not winning the party’s nomination for the December presidential nomination.