The race for the July 30th parliamentary by-elections got underway Thursday with two days of candidate registration at the National Election Commission.
Fifteen Assembly seats are up for grabs -- the largest number in Korea's by-election history.
Campaigning will officially start on July 17th and continue for two weeks until election day.
For Korea's two main political parties, the by-elections will be far more than an opportunity to expand their presence in the National Assembly as neither one emerged as the clear victor after local elections on June 4th.
Currently, the ruling Saenuri Party holds 147 of the 3-hundred parliamentary seats, while the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has 126.
The ruling party is vying to gain a majority of the vacant Assembly seats, while the main opposition party is looking to garner a win in important constituencies in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi-do Province.
Seoul's Dongjak-B district is considered strategically important to both parties, as the district's parliamentary seat is not only in the heart of Seoul but is the former district of seven-term lawmaker and Saenuri heavyweight Chung Mong-joon.
Experts say that as the 15 constituencies are spread around the nation, with six being in the metropolitan area, including one in Seoul, the so-called "mini general election" could act as a referendum on the government.
In appealing to voters, the Saenuri Party will emphasize the need for a national reform drive and supporting the president, while the unified opposition party will continue to highlight government's mishandling of April's ferry tragedy.
But unless the main opposition party can provide viable alternatives to the ruling party's policies, neither party will have a clear advantage.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News.