The pre-registration of candidates for the June 4th local elections began on Tuesday,
and will run until May 14th.
The elections cover 17 provincial governor and mayoral seats as well as positions for education superintendent and local assembly members.
Those who choose to register during this period can carry out certain kinds of campaign activities, allowing voters to gain an early understanding of the candidates running in their region ahead of the main candidate registration period in mid-May.
While busily contacting political heavyweights for the upcoming elections, the ruling Saenuri Party is trying to deflect the opposition's attempt to paint the elections as an early term evaluation of the Park Geun-hye administration.
Saenuri Party floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan has stressed the local elections are about picking the best leaders for local governments, and not about passing judgment on how the Park administration has done thus far.
The main opposition Democratic Party leadership has issued a political reform plan in an apparent bid to get the upper hand in its competition against the dark horse of the opposition -- independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo, who generated excitement among voters with his plans to reform politics in 2012.
The Democratic Party's political reform proposal centers around scrapping the privileges of lawmakers and includes having all lawmakers report to an independent ethics committee their plans for overseas travel and commemoration ceremonies for the publication of their books.
Ahn is aiming to launch his own party by March and field candidates for all 17 provincial governor and mayoral seats.
With the addition of Ahn's party, the June local elections are expected to be a three-way race for the first time in 16 years.
"The Democratic Party is leaving room for cooperation with Ahn's party, saying the public wants the liberal bloc to unite and win the June local elections to ring the bell on the conservative Park administration.
But since it's not clear whether Ahn will reciprocate, a major reshuffle of the opposition bloc seems inevitable.
Kim Yeon-ji, Arirang News."