A monitoring screen inside the National Election Commission`s headquarters in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, shows Friday that 19 days remain until the June 1 local elections. (Yonhap)
The upcoming local elections on June 1 have already become a historic event for South Korea, with the country seeing younger candidates than ecer running for public office while the competition rate hit rock-bottom.
The National Election Commission at 6 p.m. Friday stopped accepting candidate registrations for the local elections, where voters will choose 17 new metropolitan mayors and provincial governors as well as 226 other heads of local administrative units.
Voters will also be deciding who will take the 3,381 seats up for grabs in the metropolitan, provincial, city, county and municipal district councils. The election watchdog said 7,616 people registered to take part in the competition.
That means the overall number of candidates per seat is just 1.8, beating the previous record-low of 2.3 reached in 2014. The competition rate for 17 metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial elections was 3.2 to 1.
Analysts have suggested that the competition rate has fallen because the rivalry between the People Power Party and the Democratic Party of Korea has intensified since the presidential election in March. The two parties are the only factions that made nominations for all 17 metropolitan mayoral and gubernatorial elections.
With the two main parties deliberately nominating high profile candidates for key posts regions, minor parties chose to make fewer nominations, avoiding areas where they had little chance of gaining influence.
The left-wing Justice Party, the third-largest political party in Korea, only nominated seven candidates for the 17 key elections, while the Basic Income Party registered five.
The lack of competition for the June 1 elections saw victories declared for 119 candidates at the end of registration, as no other candidates registered to compete. Apart from one independent candidate, 67 of them are from the Democratic Party, and 51 are with the People Power Party.
The upcoming election is also highlighted by the first-ever teenage candidates, after lawmakers passed revisions to the Public Official Election Act last year to lower the age requirement to be a lawmaker, local council member or local government chief from 25 to 18.
According to NEC data, seven of the registered candidates were in their teens, four of them being 18 years old. The oldest candidate was 81 years old, and the average age of all candidates reached 54. Some 27.5 percent of candidates are women.
Close to 36 percent of candidates had criminal records, and 11.9 percent of male candidates had not completed military service.
The average amount of registered assets was 858 million won ($716,000), with Cho Seong-myung, running for the chief administrative post for Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, having the most with 51.9 billion won. Candidates paid an average of 43.7 million won in taxes.
On June 1, South Korea is also electing seven new lawmakers through parliamentary by-elections to be held on the sidelines of the local elections.
Fifteen people have registered to try for the legislative posts, including heavyweights like Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People Power Party. Twelve of the candidates are male, and 11 of them have completed their military service.
Six of the 15 candidates have criminal records, with Lee having the most convictions with three serious enough to require public notification. A fourth fell below the threshold.
By Ko Jun-tae (email@example.com