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South Korea polls widely seen as vote on handling of ferry disaster

Published on Jun 2, 2014 4:29 PM
 
The posters of local election candidates are dispolayed on a wall in Seoul on May 29, 2014. South Koreans elect new local representatives on Wednesday in elections widely seen as a barometer of President Park Geun Hye's response to a ferry disaster in April that killed more than 300 people, most of them children from the same school. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Koreans elect new local representatives on Wednesday in elections widely seen as a barometer of President Park Geun Hye's response to a ferry disaster in April that killed more than 300 people, most of them children from the same school.

The sinking of the Sewol has sidelined traditional campaign issues such as jobs, education and welfare, and instead focused voter attention on a fierce national debate over the government's failure to enforce oversight on safety. "This election is going to start with the Sewol and end with the Sewol," said Kim Hyung Joon, a political science professor at Myongji University in Seoul. "It'll be favourable to the opposition and considerably disadvantageous to the ruling party."

Park's approval ratings fell sharply from 61 to 46 per cent in the days after the disaster - her lowest since coming to power in February last year - and show little sign of improving.

Opposition candidates look set to win key mayoral races in Seoul, neighbouring Incheon and Busan in the southeast, but Park's ruling conservative Saenuri Party is unlikely to suffer landslide defeats.

 
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