The Korea Herald


Main opposition crushes ruling bloc in by-elections

Elections for two mayor cities to determine the fate of next year’s presidential election

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : April 7, 2021 - 14:25

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Seoul Mayor candidate Oh Se-hoon appeals for support during a campaign stop held in Nowon-gu, northern Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Seoul Mayor candidate Oh Se-hoon appeals for support during a campaign stop held in Nowon-gu, northern Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Oh Se-hoon, a former mayor and the sole candidate from the main opposition People Power Party, won the by-election for Seoul mayor by a landslide.

Oh won the race, taking 57.5 percent of the votes, compared to former SMEs minister Park Young-sun's 38.18 percent. 

Exits poll results showed that Oh received 59 percent of the votes while Park Young-sun, former minister of SMEs and startups and the sole candidate from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, received 37.7 percent of the votes in Seoul.

In Busan, Park Hyung-joon of the main opposition crushed Kim Young-choon with 62.67 percent, compared to Kim's 34.42 percent.

Both Park Young-sun and Kim Young-choon of the ruling party admitted their defeat early on.

“To the citizens who pick up a whip, I humbly think that I should accept all of it and move on. I would like to express my infinite gratitude to the citizens who supported me until the end, hoping that true heart would win,” Park said.

Earlier at 10:05 p.m., with only 12.9 percent of voting counted, Kim admitted defeat, saying, “I humbly accept the results in front of a big wave of public sentiment. I and the Democratic Party of Korea will never give up on Busan’s dream in the future.”

With a 8.8 percent turnout as of 10:50 p.m. in Seoul, Oh is far ahead of Park with 57.13 percent of the votes, compared to Park’s 39.78 percent.

In Busan, with 35.16 percent of the vote counted, Park received 63.46 percent of the votes, while Kim had 33.78 percent.

The total number of eligible voters is about 11 million, with 8.4 million in Seoul and 2.9 million in Busan.

The National Election Commission said that the turnout for Seoul and Busan stood at 55.5 percent, 4.7 percent lower than the 2018 local elections.

The turnout for the by-election was the highest in the three conservative and affluent districts of Gangnam, Seocho, and Songpa, which are the dominant regions in the opposition camp.

By district, Seocho-gu ranked first among the 25 districts in Seoul with 59.8 percent of the vote, followed by Songpa-gu with 57.2 percent and Gangnam-gu with 57 percent as of 7 p.m.

The final results are expected to come out around 3-4 a.m. Thursday.

The terms of Seoul and Busan mayors will begin as soon as they are elected. The term for the new mayor will be about a year and three months, until June 30, 2022. The new mayors, including former Seoul mayor Oh, can serve up to three consecutive terms.

The main opposition People Power Party believes its party can win if the turnout exceeds 50 percent. This is because the higher the turnout, the more undecided voters, who it believes are disappointed in the current administration, come out to the polling stations.

For both ruling and opposition parties, the results of the elections are critical as they can be a prelude to determining the fate of next year’s presidential election.

If Oh wins by a landslide, the People Power Party is likely to take the lead in reorganizing the opposition bloc and preparing for the presidential election. If he wins by a small margin, the party may need new political figures from outside the party to prepare for the next year’s election. If he loses, the party is bound to face a crisis.

In the case of the Democratic Party of Korea, if Park wins, it will be seen as a reaffirmation of the power of the ruling party’s support and secure momentum to re-create the administration. If she loses, President Moon Jae-in will become a lame duck earlier than expected and upheavals within the party will be inevitable for a considerable time.

Whoever wins, Seoul will face a major change in the real estate market as the main pledges of both front-runners was real estate development to deal with the chronic housing shortage in the capital.

Both candidates shared their opinions on easing regulations on the height of apartment buildings, but differences were revealed on real estate development.

While Park pledges to provide housing under the initiative of state-run organizations, such as the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, Oh has pledged to push for development by easing private regulations.

Park plans to supply 300,000 apartment units worth 10 million won (about $9,000) per 3.3 square meters for five years. Oh vows to supply a total of 360,000 apartment units, including 185,000 units through deregulation of reconstruction and redevelopment.

By Shin Ji-hye (