The Korea Herald


[KH Explains] Who’s who in local elections

Greater Seoul area draws most attention with less than a month until election day

By Ko Jun-tae

Published : May 2, 2022 - 15:29

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A promotional sign is being installed outside the National Election Commission`s branch in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Monday as just 30 days are left until the local elections on June 1. (Yonhap) A promotional sign is being installed outside the National Election Commission`s branch in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Monday as just 30 days are left until the local elections on June 1. (Yonhap)
With less than a month left until the local elections, South Korea’s two major political parties finished drawing their lineups for 17 metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial elections.

South Korea’s conservative People Power Party is hoping to win at least 10 of the 17 posts, putting forward some well-known candidates. The party is looking to score another win following its success in the presidential election in March and in the Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections in April 2021.

Its main opponent, the Democratic Party of Korea, is determined to stage a comeback after two unsuccessful elections running, and with the narrow loss in the presidential election -- by just 0.73 percentage point -- the liberal party believes chances still remain for its flagbearers.

The last local election held in 2018 was a landslide victory for the Democratic Party, with the faction winning 14 of the 17 posts as well as sweeping 11 out of the 12 legislative seats up for grabs in the parliamentary by-elections held on the sidelines.

The greatest attention is on how the campaigns will unfold in the greater capital region of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

In Seoul, Song Young-gil of the Democratic Party faces a steep uphill battle against incumbent Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who is one of the most influential figures within the People Power Party and already touted as a potential presidential candidate in 2027.

Oh, clearly favored in all opinion surveys to date, has vowed to aggressively supply new homes and invest trillions of won through 2030 to bring South Korea’s capital up to No. 5 in the world in terms of economic competitiveness.

Song promised to bring a fifth office of the United Nations to Seoul and make extensive reforms to its housing market as part of turning it into a global city, highlighting his campaign as a challenge against the “prosecutorial empire” under the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration.

A Gallup Korea poll of 1,006 adults in Seoul conducted from April 29 to 30 had Oh clearly ahead on 54.6 percent, with Song on 32.7 percent.

Gyeonggi Province

Many have highlighted the battle for the Gyeonggi Province gubernatorial post as a repeat of the 20th presidential election, as the two major candidates are closely affiliated with the main candidates for the 20th presidential election.

The impact Lee made while serving as the governor for the province before jumping into the presidential election has helped Kim Dong-yeon stay at the front in many opinion surveys, and there is a solid chance that the Democratic Party will retain control of the province for another four years.

Former Rep. Kim Eun-hye is the People Power Party’s flagbearer, standing out as a figure representing the sentiment toward the Yoon administration, which kicks off on May 10. Kim Eun-hye is one of the closest supporters of Yoon, having served as his spokesperson during the presidential campaign and in the early weeks of the transition period.

According to a survey of 1,058 adults from April 29 to 30 by Gallup Korea, Kim Eun-hye, with 42.7 percent, was barely ahead of Kim Dong-yeon with 42.6 percent.


The battle for the mayoral post of Incheon is a match between the past and the present, as incumbent Mayor Park Nam-choon of the Democratic Party is looking to extend his term and fight off the challenge from former Incheon Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok of the People Power Party.

Yoo is leading the polls for the time being, but considering the fact that Incheon voted in favor of the Democratic Party in the presidential election, many believe the battle still will be fierce and close until the very last moment.

The race is largely expected to reflect the initial public sentiment toward the Yoon administration, as only 20 days would remain for the local elections to take the full spotlight once the new administration officially kicks off.

Park has emphasized he will continue with his current efforts to vitalize a local currency and grow Incheon’s presence in the capital region by pursuing its own initiatives rather than relying on agenda set by Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

Yoo has emphasized his potential to improve the financial standing of Incheon and vowed to improve public transportation system of the city for faster travel within the greater Seoul area, highlighting his close connection to Yoon that would help with close coordination with the central government, and to make notable accomplishments in regional development.

Other key areas

The Democratic Party is the clear favorite in gubernatorial elections for North and South Jeolla provinces, while the People Power Party is clearly ahead in its own strongholds in the North and South Gyeongsang provinces.

The People Power Party is also favored in opinion surveys to win metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial elections of Busan, Daegu and Gangwon Province, while the Democratic Party is leading polls to grab control of Gwangju and Jeju Province.

But the prospects of the metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial elections are yet uncertain in North and South Chungcheong provinces, the two regions often touted as “swing states” in South Korea’s elections. And rival parties have put forward some heavyweights to secure these regions for what’s anticipated to be close-fought battles.

People Power Party’s Kim Tae-heum is running in the North Chungcheong Province gubernatorial election at the request of Yoon and his close aides. He is competing against Yang Seung-jo, incumbent governor for the province affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Noh Young-min, former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, is running for the Democratic Party to compete against former Science Minister Kim Young-hwan of the People Power Party, who served as a special adviser to Yoon during the transition period.

Tight races are expected in the mayoral elections for Daejeon, Sejong and Ulsan, but the People Power Party will likely have better chances of winning the Ulsan mayoral election if its candidate Kim Doo-kyum reaches a cooperative agreement with independent candidate Park Maeng-woo.