Recent reforms of family policy signal a turning point in the Korean welfare state, as they undermine the welfare developmentalism that is commonly ascribed to Korean social policy. Drawing on the East Asian as well as Western welfare state literatures, this research seeks to understand the politics behind family policy reforms. In doing so, this research argues that political parties were the driver of these reforms, contrary to the conventional ‘parties do not matter’ perspective that dominates the East Asian welfare state literature. Utilizing the party competition thesis from the study of Western welfare states, this article demonstrates that political parties, the unlikely reform agency due to their perceived non-policy orientation, moved family policy to centre stage in election campaigns. Far-reaching changes in the electorate, namely the diminishing effect of regionalism and the increasing importance of young voters, incentivized parties to promote family policy. Thus, this research calls for bringing political parties into the analysis of East Asian welfare politics.