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QnA: What are local elections and why are they important? Updated: 2022-05-16 17:05:32 KST

COVID-19 relief, real estate development, and even taxes these are some of the areas that not only the president but also regional governments have powers over in South Korea.
On June 1st, voters will head to the polls to decide on governors or mayors of the 17 provincial governments.
AND with President Yoon's administration kicking off last week with big plans the election results will have a huge impact on his 5-year term as he will want the backing of regional governments with four-year terms for the winning candidates.
On the other hand the Democratic Party of Korea will be able to redeem themselves, following disappointment in the presidential elections, by taking regional chief posts such as Seoul mayor or governor of Gyeonggi-do Province where they'll be able to influence the country's policies.

So who exactly are voters electing?
Most voters in South Korea will be voting in 7 different elections from local district council members to regional education superintendents.
There are around 41-hundred seats up for grabs, and more than 76-hundred candidates are running to fill those spots.

How are things looking right now?
Currently the two largest cities are run by mayors from the President's party the People Power Party.
However the majority of regional governments are controlled by the Democratic Party of Korea, AND the most populous province Gyeonggi-do's top office is only vacant as former Democratic Party of Korea's Presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung resigned to run in the presidential race.

How much power do regional governments have?
The 17 regional leaders especially have enormous impact on the residents of their districts.
Perhaps the most powerful being in the nation's capital where the mayor oversees an annual budget of more than 30 billion U.S. dollars and is responsible for around 10 million residents.
The Seoul mayor participates in weekly cabinet meetings and while the position does not include a right to vote the winning candidate will have a direct channel to the President.

What if positions are uncontested?
Naturally with so many posts open for election some will go uncontested meaning the number of candidates is the same as open posts.
This time around nearly 500 positions have been filled without the need for a vote a five-fold jump since the last local elections 4 years ago.
One explanation for this is that in regions where political preferences have become more distinct, the less popular parties have chosen to opt out.

Who's eligible to vote?
The recent introduction of a new law means the voting age has been lowered to 18 years old, all Koreans over that age are eligible to vote.
One thing to note here is that for local elections foreigners who have been permanent residents for at least 3 years are also able to participate.
They are unable to vote in Presidential or general elections.
Official campaigning starts on Thursday and early voting opens on the 27th and 28th of May.
Kim Do-yeon, Arirang News.
Reporter : tkim@arirang.com
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