The effect of the government's poor handling of the Sewol-ho ferry disaster is being reflected in recent polling, which shows that the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is gaining support in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi-do province.
According to a poll conducted this week by TNS Korea on more than 14-thousand likely voters, the ruling Saenuri Party's candidate for Seoul mayor, Chung Mong-joon, is more than 15 points behind incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon, who was at 51 percent support.
It's a similar story in the city of Incheon, where the ruling party mayoral candidate Yoo Jeong-bok is trailing incumbent Song Young-il of the oppostion party by more than 10 percentage points.
The race for governor of Gyeonggi-do province is much tighter.
Just zero.9 percentage points separate Saenuri candidate Nam Kyung-pil and opposition candidate Kim Jin-pyo in the TNS Korea polling.
All three local races are considered significant on the national stage, as the three areas boast about half of Korea's total population.
Earning victories in these races can give a party a full head of steam heading into future legislative and presidential elections.
In other important local races, such as in the conservative stronghold city of Busan, and in the liberal stronghold city of Gwangju, the polling fell more along party lines.
According to a survey conducted by the National Election Commission last week, 55.8 percent of respondents said they would vote on election day, up one percentage point from the 2010 local elections.
"Campaigning is set to begin on Thursday, and public safety has emerged as the hot button issue in light of April's ferry disaster.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News."